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Sara ParetskyDetective fiction as trauma literature$
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Cynthia S. Hamilton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719096952

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719096952.001.0001

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Destabilising the status quo

Destabilising the status quo

(p.137) 5 Destabilising the status quo
Sara Paretsky

Cynthia S. Hamilton

Manchester University Press

This chapter looks at Paretsky’s detective novels in relation to historiography and identity politics. One aspect of the regulatory power of institutions is the power to decide what is remembered, what forgotten. Thus, the recovery of lost voices and traumatic testimony is central to Paretsky’s agenda of restoring agency to those marginalised. Paretsky questions the legitimacy of the status quo at the deepest level where totalising narratives justify the privileging of vested interests. In Total Recall and in Blacklist, Paretsky exposes America’s evasions in dealing with particularly traumatic episodes in its history: the Holocaust, American slavery, McCarthyism, and 9/11. Paretsky uses historical analogies to critique the construction of master narratives that marginalise and exclude those wronged by society—and by history. At this level, Paretsky’s novels can be seen as an attack on the ideological agenda of narrative consolidation that is so often seen as the defining political convention of the genre.

Keywords:   Historiography, Holocaust, slavery, McCarthyism, 9/11, historical analogy, totalising narratives, agency, marginalisation, trauma

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