Can Trauma be Told? Juridical Discourse and Affect in Vanessa Place’s Statement of Facts

Published: Jul 19, 2021
just art documentary poetics justice Vanessa Place Jean-François Lyotard Statement of Facts Trauma Law differend
Francis Haselden

A poet and an appellate criminal defence attorney specialising in sex crimes, Vanessa Place reproduces the evidence of rape crimes presented during trials in Statement of Facts (2010). At the heart of these trials lies a trauma that legal language seeks to convey. Drawing on Jean-François Lyotard’s concepts of the differend (différend) and litigation, I ask if the documentary poem represents the traumatic event or if it simply reproduces legal language. I propose that the discourse of the law fails to account for trauma because of a mismatch between the forms of language required to establish facts in a court of law and the traumatic event itself. Yet, the transformation of this language into a poem makes it possible to indicate this mismatch while at the same time bringing the unspeakable violence of the traumatic experience to the surface of the text as read by the poet.

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Author Biography
Francis Haselden

Francis Haselden. After graduating in philosophy and art history at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris) and in metaphysics at Sorbonne-Université, Francis Haselden is currently preparing a Ph.D on Arthur Schopenhauer’s aesthetics. He has recently translated into French The Inorganic Body in the Early Marx by Judith Butler, and published two essays about the philosophy of Jean-François Lyotard: “Le commentaire d’art comme échec perpétuel dans la Présence de Jean-François Lyotard” in Poli- Femo (Liguore Editore), and “L’Autre Scène de Jean-François Lyotard” in the Nouvelle Revue d’Esthétique (Presses universitaires de France).

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