JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 327
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to one another [during the period of state-sanctioned atrocities] is
subsumed within a broader tale about what communal norms required of
them and how these norms got to be the way they are" (73; emphasis
added). Of course, this retelling and weaving within the broader intertextual
fabric of our tradition (liberal stories) implies the continuity of the
protocols for determining meaning-the genre. As Osiel makes evident,
"Without recourse to the conventions of some genre, one will not have a
genuine story. A story must have a plot, providing an intelligible begin-
ning, middle, and end, located within a meaningfully delimited spatial
context, a given community" (71). Reading and retelling within the
"interpretive community" clearly implies our coming to recognize and
utilize the normative and literary genres that help us to understand
ourselves and our traditions more fully. For Osiel, this hermeneutical
faith in narratives that foster a common understanding is crucial in a
society that is recovering from a traumatic past. Here, both textual
predecessors and present interpreters form a fabric of intertextuality that
weaves texts to other texts and contexts. Hence, the concern is merely to
ascertain "which genre provides the most suitable framework for histori-
cal interpretation and public understanding of these horrors" (284). But
let us be clear, the texture of interpretation and understanding are to be
woven by those literary genres that "prove better than others in choosing
particular facts-among all chronicled ones-and arranging them into a
national narrative that can effectively foster discursive solidarity and
liberal memory" (283).
The Ethical Limits of Understanding
But what happens when we come upon that which cannot be told as a
"genuine story" with "an intelligible beginning, middle, and end"? What
about those tears that cannot be contained "within a meaningfully
delimited spatial context"? What happens when we encounter that which
does not provide us with any information or understanding? What value
do we attribute to that which cannot be told as a retelling, to that which
does not make allusions to the generic conventions of"a given commu-
nity"? To those who cry out: "I cannot light the fire, I do not know the
prayer, I can no longer find the spot in the forest, I cannot even tell the
story any longer. All I know how to do is to say that I no longer know how
to tell this story" (Lyotard, Heidegger 47). Reading and retelling within
the "interpretive community" seems ethically suspect when we consider
these questions, this affliction, for if understanding requires the reconcili-
ation of the interpreter's present presumptions with the text/event and its
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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/m1/73/: accessed February 26, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .