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Special Issue Articles

Vol. 4 No. 1 (2022): American Studies as Vulnerability Studies

'Vulnerable as a small pink mouse': Vulnerability, Affect, and Trauma in Hanya Yanagihara's A Little Life

January 24, 2022


This essay focuses on the productive interactions between vulnerability and trauma theory. Vulnerability indexes trauma's infinitude and recursion as something constantly generative of new emotional, social, and legal injuries. In the novel A Little Life (2015), Hanya Yanagihara employs narrative fragmentation, multi-perspectivity, and temporal disarray to evoke trauma's patterns of injury and abjection. Vulnerability's double valence creates affective intensities for readers and establishes a sense of intimacy with the protagonist as he is traumatized. Vulnerability in the novel is linked to closeness, thus, in a dual sense. On the one hand, the protagonist closes off from the world. On the other hand, he persists impossibly in fostering intimate relationships. In A Little Life, it is this precarious closeness precisely through which vulnerability becomes a form of resistance that foregrounds agency.


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