JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 306
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The Gothic of Unintelligibility
In evoking the ways that traumatic history can feel like something "other"
that catches the subject, instead of the subject directing and controlling
events, The Devil's Backbone inscribes this history as a dispossession of
agential subjectivity. One of the most interesting tensions in the film
returns to this gothicized ground, but with epistemological concerns that
can be formulated slightly differently: namely, whether and to what
extent we can attribute meaning to horrific events. How intelligible is
traumatic history? Which aspects remain obscure, shut offfromn represen-
tation and knowledge? It is in regard to these questions that the film's
gothic discourse invokes and probes the sublime and ultimately insists on
uncertainty." The "confusion" surfaces around the attempts to determine
whether history is a comprehensible, causal sequence of events or
composed of sudden, unintelligible accidents; whether repetition makes
history look like recurring sameness or whether, and in which ways, there
can be repetition with a difference; and finally, to what degree history
remains "other," and to what extent it is capable of symbolization.
Figure 4: Jacinto and Santi in a Fatal, Final Embrace
The most obvious arena where The Devil's Backbone tests out the
intelligibility of history as crisis is in its mirrorings and parallels. Some
parallels seem to assert that history can be rewritten, repeated with a
difference, and that the possibility for meaning emerges in a transforma-
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/52/: accessed October 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .