Beyond punctum and studium: trauma and photography in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room

Rau, Petra ORCID: (2006) Beyond punctum and studium: trauma and photography in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room. Journal of European Studies, 36 (3). pp. 295-327. ISSN 1740-2379

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In her novella triptych The Dark Room (2001) the Australo-German Rachel Seiffert uses the motif of photography to problematize the ways in which Germans of various generations deal with the Nazi era and their implication in it. In this essay I argue that Seiffert demonstrates the limitations of photography in assisting us with accessing the past or any simplified notion of ‘truth’ or ‘reality’, especially when this medium carries the mandates of historical evidence and moral imperatives. Drawing on the historical contexts of Holocaust photography and recent critical readings of their use, I test the helpfulness of Barthes’ notions of punctum and studium. In pitching photographs of traumatic history against photography’s potential to produce trauma-like experiences or at least disturb the spectator, Seiffert places the true burden of the photograph on its temporal and connotative contingency that may lead to a ‘spectral punctum’ - a subjective affect caused by something that the image does not record but that nonetheless conditions its reading as traumatic, a negative supplement signifying loss or absence.

Item Type: Article
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing
UEA Research Groups: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Research Groups > Modern and Contemporary Writing Research Group
Depositing User: Pure Connector
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2013 14:38
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2023 10:30
DOI: 10.1177/0047244106067482

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