Academic Research Report

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Academic Research Report

With regard to the implementation of project PN-II-RU-TE-2011-3-0149, no. 64/2011

for the period January-December 2012

Project title: Cross-Cultural Encounters in American Trauma Narratives: A Comparative Approach to Personal and Collective Memories, project director Assoc. Prof. Dr. Roxana Oltean

Research and documentation activities

The main aim of the second stage of the implementation of the project (January-December 2012) was to analyze the mechanisms of traumatic memory in narrative texts, in particular in those that combine text and image in their narrative construction.

In this sense, in this phase of the project, we carried out research in Bucharest libraries (Central University Library and the databases available through various subscriptions on a series of electronic platforms - Roxana Oltean; The Academy Library – Rodica Mihaila), as well as in the Library of the University of Manchester, Great Britain (Mihaela Precup) or, for the Holocaust, we consulted books and testimonies of Holocaust survivors from the archives of the Mémorial de la Shoah, Paris, France (Dana Mihailescu).

At the same time, we furthered the individual and comparative analysis of the mechanisms of traumatic memory in narratives of (trans)cultural experiences pertaining to individual and collective history:

  • Assoc. Prof. Roxana Oltean analyzed tropes and policies of communication as well as expressions of subversive or complicitous discourse in the Cold War period in Romania and in the United States, in narratives and in the broadcasts of radio stations such as Radio Free Europe;

  • Prof. Rodica Mihaila analyzed in particular the 9/11 trauma in narratives and documentaries;

  • Assist. Prof. Dana Mihailescu followed pre-Holocaust and Holocaust traumas in works by M.E. Ravage, Konrad Bercovici, Maurice Samuel, Aleksander Hemon, Norman Manea;

  • Assist prof. Mihaela Precup dealt with individual and collective traumas manifested through national and personal mourning in works by Collum McCann, Don DeLillo and Jonathan Safran Foer;

The research results were disseminated through the following activities:

  1. Organizing a workshop with international participation, in this phase of the project, with the title Mapping Generations of Traumatic Memory in American City Narratives, at the biennial conference Remapping Urban Spaces – American Challenges, organized by the Romanian Association of American Studies and by the Fulbright Commission, held at Ovidius University, Constanta, 4th-6th of October 2012 ( The schedule of our workshop was as follows:

Friday, October 5th 10.30 – 12.00 Reading Room 1(2nd floor)

Session 4 A: Mapping Generations of Traumatic Memory in American City Narratives

Chair: Roxana Oltean, University of Bucharest

Rodica Mihăilă, University of Bucharest

  • Roxana Oltean, University of Bucharest

Totalitarian Cityscapes in Transatlantic Memory

  • Rodica Mihăilă, University of Bucharest

Healing the Nation, Memorializing Trauma: Ground Zero and the Critique of Exceptionalism in the Recent American Novel

  • Cristian Panaite, University of Texas, Dallas

Remembering Communism in Washington DC: Politics, Aesthetics, and Rituals in the Nation’s Capital

Writing Post-Traumatic Memories and the City: Jonathan Safran Foer’s

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Friday, October 5th 13.30 – 15.30 Reading Room 1(2nd floor)

Session 5A: Mapping Generations of Traumatic Memory in American City Narratives

Chair: Roxana Oltean, University of Bucharest

Dana Mihăilescu, University of Bucharest

  • Mihaela Precup, University of Bucharest

“Let us forget walking men”: Levitation and Mourning in Collum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin

  • Dana Mihăilescu, University of Bucharest

Negotiating Traumas via Cross-Cultural Urban Identity Configurations out of Grief: Outlook on Aleksandar Hemon’s The Lazarus Project

  • Maria Zirra, Utrecht University/University of Bucharest

Nesting Dolls That Don’t Fit: Performing the 1991 Crown Heights Riots in Anna Deavere Smith’s Fires in The Mirror

  • Ilinca-Miruna Diaconu, University of Bucharest

Shadrack’s “shack on the riverbank”: Marginalization and Refuge in Toni Morrison’s Sula

  1. Drafting papers presented at prestigious international conferences:

  • Dana Mihailescu presented the paper “Being without Pleasurable Memories: On the Predicament of Shoah’s Children-Survivors in Norman Manea’s “Proust’s Tea” at the conference Beyond camps and forced labour: current international research on survivors of Nazi persecution, which took place at the Imperial War Museum, London, 4th-6th of January 2012 ( The paper takes as its starting point the theories of psychologists with regard to the memory and identity of child-survivors of the Holocaust (Paul Valent, Judith Kestenberg, Charlotte Kahn) and of adult survivors of the Holocaust (Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer). The work analyzes a series of narratives written by Norman Manea so as to identify the specificity of traumas suffered by child survivors from Transnistria and the subsequent impact upon their personality of life in a communist society and then in the United States.
  • Mihaela Precup presented the paper ““Let us forget walking men”: Levitation and Mourning in Collum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin” at the workshop Mapping Generations of Traumatic Memory in American City Narratives. In this paper, the author analyzed novelist Collum McCann’s 2009 Let the Great World Spin, and focussed on how this work, which enters into a dialogue with novels by Don DeLillo and Jonathan Safran Foer engaging similar issues, brings a major contribution to the wider contemporary discussion of post-traumatic reinterpretations and re-tellings. In addition, the paper proposed the concept of levitation as a stage in the process of the public manifestation of individual and collective trauma, thus contributing to the development of this project’s research theme.

  • Rodica Mihaila was one of the academics invited to deliver a plenary lecture at the conference of the European Association for American Studies, Health of a Nation, held 30th March-2nd of April in Izmir, Turkey ( Prof. Mihaila’s paper, “Healing the Nation? The Critique of Exceptionalism in the Post-9/11 American Novel,” discussed the degree to which American exceptionalism was affected by and, in its turn, influenced the collective trauma brought about by the events of the 11th of September 2001. In addition, in the paper presented at the workshop held at the biennial RAAS conference, Prof. Mihaila presented the results of research into the ideology and reception of monuments in New York in a space that is traumatic by its very essence, ground 0, focusing on how the discourse disseminated into public space - though the very existence of these monuments as well as through public debates about the design of these spaces - brings into perspective the extremely complex layers of traumatic and post-traumatic memory.
  • Roxana Oltean delivered a paper at the workshop organized at the biennial RAAS conference in which she presented the results of research pertaining to strategies and policies of communication, subversion or complicity and spaces of trauma or healing created in particular by communication via radio waves during the Cold War, analyzing the case of Radio Free Europe and Voice of America, situating this approach at the intersection of memory studies, imagology and transatlantic relations. The purpose of the research itself and the preliminary results are relevant so as to offer a more ample perspective upon the complex strategies and policies of communication during the Cold War. The research was focused both on primary sources –RFE and VOA broadcasts, the policy guides for these radios – as well as on theoretical approaches or on case studies with regard to the impact and reception of the strategies and policies of communication. The research also opens up new questions and horizons, such as the degree to which the expectations related to the creation of a space of resistance through strategies and policies of communication elaborated from beyond the Iron Curtain were met or on the contrary disappointed, and the manner in which these strategies and policies have created or attenuated spaces of traumatic memory running along several generations.

  1. Publications

  • In this stage, we continued to publish papers that are closely connected to the topic of our research paper, in specialized international journals indexed by ISI-AHRI or in Romanian reviews indexed in international databases, as follows: 1 article about the images of Romania and America in narratives of Jewish-Romanian immigrants to America at the beginning of the 20th century, published in East European Jewish Affairs (Routledge, ISI-AHRI journal, author: Dana Mihailescu) ; 1 review about the memory of survivors of the Holocaust in Romania published in Journal of Jewish Studies (ISI-AHRI journal, author: Dana Mihailescu) ; 1 article about personal traumas in the aftermath of the Vietnam War in Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell A True War Story“ (in University of Bucharest Review, 2011 issue published in 2012; author: Dana Mihailescu).

• Dana Mihailescu. “Images of Romania and America in Early Twentieth-Century Romanian-Jewish Immigrant Life Stories in the United States.” East European Jewish Affairs 42.1 (April 2012): 25-43. ISSN 1350-1674 / ISSN 1743-971X online [Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, Manchester, UK, AHRI-ISI-indexed journal]. <>.

• Dana Mihailescu. “Review of Mémoires des Juifs de Roumanie, by Mehdi Chebana and Jonas Mercier Mure-Ravaud”. Journal of Jewish Studies 63.1 (April 2012): 186-189. ISSN 0022-2097 [Oxford, UK, ISI-AHRI-indexed journal]

• Dana Mihailescu. “On the Performative Lure of War Memories: Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”.” University of Bucharest Review. A Journal of Literary and Cultural Studies (vol.1, no 2, 2011): 105-114. <>. ISSN: 2069-8658.

Project Director,

Assoc. Prof. Dr. Roxana Oltean

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