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After the End: The Death of a Child in Marie Darrieussecq's Tom est mort and Hèléne Cixous's Le Jour où je n' étais pas là

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Kathryn Robson



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Adeffi, 2019.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The death of a child is typically seen as incommensurate, a limit-experience defying articulation and comprehension. In her most recent book, Literature in the Ashes of History (2013), the literary critic and trauma theorist Cathy Caruth undertakes a series of readings – of Freud, Derrida, Arendt, amongst others – in order to theorize a history that inscribes itself in and through its own (self-conscious, and traumatic) self-effacement. Whilst Caruth’s text knowingly locates this disappearing history in an explicitly post-Holocaust context, what is striking is that her point of departure, in the first chapter, is, in part, an exploration of the effects of the death of a child on his mother and on his friends. Her attempt to theorize and initiate what she calls ‘a new kind of language’, produced ‘After the End’ (as she titles the second part of the book), must thus be understood not only in relation to the post-Holocaust world, but also in the context of the more personal, individual trauma of the loss of a child. This article seeks to explore Caruth’s notion of a different kind of language through analysis of Marie Darrieussecq’s Tom est mort (2007) and Hélène Cixous’s Le Jour où je n’étais pas là’ (2000). I argue that the ‘new language’ announced by Caruth and echoed in these texts is not a new language, but a language articulated in and through its own erasure, disintegration and absence, that ‘undoes’ its subject even as it gives voice to it, and locates itself after an end that is itself perpetually under erasure.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Robson KA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Irish Journal of French Studies

Year: 2019

Volume: 19

Pages: 70-86

Online publication date: 09/12/2019

Acceptance date: 03/05/2018

Date deposited: 09/07/2018

ISSN (print): 1649-1335

ISSN (electronic): 2009-941X

Publisher: Adeffi


DOI: 10.7173/164913319827945846


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