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The unclaimable rhythm of the wounded memory

Mahé Ben Hamed


Remembering is an intimate journey in the landscape of one's memory, a journey language can never fully grasp, especially when what is being remembered is of such collective significance and individual impact as the Holocaust. Two incongruent forces mold the word of the survivor : an intentional, claimable duty to History - inscribing the individual's experience in the matrix of collective significance through language ; and the involuntary, unclaimable mark of trauma on her memory (Caruth, 1996). The compelling power of the testimony, Felman (1992) argues, is precisely in what escapes the witness, the « unpredictability of its own music », an unpredictability she imputes to the interactions between the historical, the clinical and the poetic dimensions of the testimony. Herein, I translate Felman's formulation into an analytical framework that explores testimonies of Holocaust survivors in terms of their musical structure. 16 testimonies, written in French, are analyzed in terms of thematic rhythms and resonance, and the results discussed in terms of the impact of time and trauma on memory. A rhythmic typology of these testimonies is derived that sets the stage for an interpretation on cognitive grounds.
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hal-03201722 , version 1 (19-04-2021)


  • HAL Id : hal-03201722 , version 1


Mahé Ben Hamed. The unclaimable rhythm of the wounded memory: Musical structure of testimony as a window into the memory of the lived experience. The Holocaust and the Contemporary World International Interdisciplinary Conference, Apr 2015, Cracovia, Poland. ⟨hal-03201722⟩
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