The Objects That Remain

[An] aching, concentric rumination on loss, in which writing through the aftermath leads to insights on letting go and holding on.

Karen Rigby, Foreword Reviews

On a November evening in 1989, Laura Levitt was raped in her own bed. Her landlord heard the assault taking place and called 911, but the police arrived too late to apprehend Laura’s attacker. When they left, investigators took items with them—a pair of sweatpants, the bedclothes—and a rape exam was performed at the hospital. However, this evidence was never processed.

Decades later, Laura returns to these objects, viewing them not as clues that will lead to the identification of her assailant but rather as a means of engaging traumatic legacies writ large.

The Objects That Remain is equal parts personal memoir and fascinating examination of the ways in which the material remains of violent crimes inform our experience of, and thinking about, trauma and loss. Considering artifacts in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and evidence in police storage facilities across the country, Laura’s story moves between intimate trauma, the story of an unsolved rape, and genocide. Throughout, she asks what it might mean to do justice to these violent pasts outside the juridical system or through historical empiricism, which are the dominant ways in which we think about evidence from violent crimes and other highly traumatic events.

Over the course of her investigation, the author reveals how these objects that remain and the stories that surround them enable forms of intimacy. In this way, she models for us a different kind of reckoning, where justice is an animating process of telling and holding.

Press & Reviews

Book Cover - The Objects That Remain
Penn State University Press
Nov 2020

$24.95 | Hardcover Edition
ISBN: 978-0-271-08782-5
Coming in November

Available as an e-book

184 pages
6″ × 8″
10 b&w illustrations

Upcoming Talks & Events

There are no upcoming events at this time.
xmlns=”” xmlns:xlink=”” viewBox=”0 0 1920 180″ xml:space=”preserve”>


[An] aching, concentric rumination on loss, in which writing through the aftermath leads to insights on letting go and holding on.

Karen Rigby, Foreword Reviews

How does evidence function in the pursuit of justice? Laura Levitt was violently raped decades ago, and The Objects That Remain attends to the reverberations of that experience. Rare in her capacity to create a book both analytically rigorous and imaginatively capacious, Levitt here juxtaposes a remarkable range of events, objects, archives, and stories that she has gathered from extensive research. She tracks how official histories are told, and how she remembers what is lost and forever gone. As she does this work, the book turns toward a new horizon of justice and an underdetermined future.

Christina Crosby, author of A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain

At times provocative and uncomfortable, yet persistently inquisitive, The Objects That Remain is an autobiographically framed investigation—a forensic search, if you will—for traces of evidence in the objects that carry sexual and state violence. The book is an imaginative rethinking of sensory knowledge across multiple scales and eras, and it marks a memorable contribution to cultural analyses of material artifacts as carriers of a crime and a silence.

Simone Gigliotti, editor of The Memorialization of Genocide

A difficult, painful, and compelling book in which Levitt weaves a complex analysis of the materiality and meaningfulness of what remains of the quotidian (objects, clothing, detritus) as testimony and witness to trauma.

Elizabeth Castelli, author of Martyrdom and Memory: Early Christian Culture Making
xmlns=”” xmlns:xlink=”” viewBox=”0 0 1920 180″ xml:space=”preserve”>