"If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet."—from the Introduction In Unclaimed Experience, Cathy Caruth proposes that in the "widespread and bewildering experience of trauma" in our century—both in its occurrence and in our attempt to understand it—we can recognize the possibility of a history no longer based on simple models of straightforward experience and reference. Through the notion of trauma, she contends, we come to a new understanding that permits history to arise where immediate understanding is impossible. In her wide-ranging discussion, Caruth engages Freud's theory of trauma as outlined in Moses and Monotheism and Beyond the Pleasure Principle; the notion of reference and the figure of the falling body in de Man, Kleist, and Kant; the narratives of personal catastrophe in Hiroshima mon amour; and the traumatic address in Lecompte's reinterpretation of Freud's narrative of the dream of the burning child. -- Robert Jay Lifton, M.D., author of Hiroshima in America and The Protean Self
In Unclaimed Experience, Cathy Caruth proposes that in the widespread and bewildering experience of trauma in our century—both in its occurrence and in our attempt to understand it—we can recognize the possibility of a history no longer based on simple models of straightforward experience and reference. Through the notion of trauma, she contends, we come to a new understanding that permits history to arise where immediate understanding may not. Caruth explores the ways in which the texts of psychoanalysis, literature, and literary theory both speak about and speak through the profound story of traumatic experience. Rather than straightforwardly describing actual case studies of trauma survivors, or attempting to elucidate directly the psychiatry of trauma, she examines the complex ways that knowing and not knowing are entangled in the language of trauma and in the stories associated with it. Caruth’s wide-ranging discussion touches on Freud’s theory of trauma as outlined in Moses and Monotheism and Beyond the Pleasure Principle. She traces the notion of reference and the figure of the falling body in de Man, Kleist, and Kant; the narratives of personal catastrophe in Hiroshima mon amour; and the traumatic address in Lecompte’s reinterpretation of Freud’s narrative of the dream of the burning child. In this twentieth-anniversary edition of her now classic text, a substantial new afterword addresses major questions and controversies surrounding trauma theory that have arisen over the past two decades. Caruth offers innovative insights into the inherent connection between individual and collective trauma, on the importance of the political and ethical dimensions of the theory of trauma, and on the crucial place of literature in the theoretical articulation of the very concept of trauma. Her afterword serves as a decisive intervention in the ongoing discussions in and about the field.
These stories of trauma cannot be limited to the catastrophes they name, and the theory of catastrophic history may ultimately be written in a language that already lingers in a time that comes to us from the other side of the disaster.
A distinguished group of analysts and critics offers a compelling look at what literature and the new approaches of theoretical disciplines bring to the understanding of traumatic experiences such as child abuse, AIDS, and the effects of historical atrocities such as the Holocaust. "These essays offer fresh approaches on the subject of trauma from both a psychoanalytic and contemporary theoretical point of view".--Alan Bass, Ph.D., psychoanalyst.
"Trauma and its often symptomatic aftermath pose acute problems for historical representation and understanding. In Writing History, Writing Trauma, Dominick LaCapra provides a broad-ranging, critical inquiry into the problem of trauma, notably with respect to major historical events. In a series of interlocking essays, he explores theoretical and literary-critical attempts to come to terms with trauma as well as the crucial role post-traumatic testimonies--particularly Holocaust testimonies--have assumed in recent thought and writing. In doing so, he adapts psychoanalytic concepts to historical analysis and employs sociocultural and political critique to elucidate trauma and its after effects in culture and in people. In the first chapter LaCapra addresses trauma from the perspective of history as a discipline. He then lays a theoretical groundwork for the book as a whole, exploring the concept of historical specificity and insisting on the difference between transhistorical and historical trauma. Subsequent chapters consider how Holocaust testimonies raise the problem of the role of affect and empathy in historical understanding, and respond to the debates surrounding Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. The book's concluding essay, "Writing (About) Trauma," examines the various ways that the voice of trauma emerges in written and oral accounts of historical events. Theoretically ambitious and historically informed, Writing History, Writing Trauma is an important contribution from one of today's foremost experts on trauma." -- Publisher's website.
In the prevailing account of English empiricism, Locke conceived of self-understanding as a matter of mere observation, bound closely to the laws of physical perception. English Romantic poets and German critical philosophers challenged Locke's conception, arguing that it failed to account adequately for the power of thought to turn upon itself—to detach itself from the laws of the physical world. Cathy Caruth reinterprets questions at the heart of empiricism by treating Locke's text not simply as philosophical doctrine but also as a narrative in which "experience" plays an unexpected and uncanny role. Rediscovering traces and transformations of this narrative in Wordsworth, Kant, and Freud, Caruth argues that these authors must not be read only as rejecting or overcoming empirical doctrine but also as reencountering in their own narratives the complex and difficult relation between language and experience. Beginning her inquiry with the moment of empirical self-reflection in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding—when a mad mother mourns her dead child—Caruth asks what it means that empiricism represents itself as an act of mourning and explores why scenes of mourning reappear in later texts such as Wordsworth's Prelude, Kant's Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science and Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, and Freud's Civilization. From these readings Caruth traces a recurring narrative of radical loss and the continual displacement of the object or the agent of loss. In Locke it is the mother who mourns her dead child, while in Wordsworth it is the child who mourns the dead mother. In Kant the father murders the son, while in Freud the sons murder the father. As she traces this pattern, Caruth shows that the conceptual claims of each text to move beyond empiricism are implicit claims to move beyond reference. Yet the narrative of death in each text, she argues, leaves a referential residue that cannot be reclaimed by empirical or conceptual logic. Caruth thus reveals, in each of these authors, a tension between the abstraction of a conceptual language freed from reference and the compelling referential resistance of particular stories to abstraction. -- Keith Hanley
Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis and History
Author: Shoshana Felman,Dori Laub
Category: Literary Collections
In this unique collection, Yale literary critic Shoshana Felman and psychoanalyst Dori Laub examine the nature and function of memory and the act of witnessing, both in their general relation to the acts of writing and reading, and in their particular relation to the Holocaust. Moving from the literary to the visual, from the artistic to the autobiographical, and from the psychoanalytic to the historical, the book defines for the first time the trauma of the Holocaust as a radical crisis of witnessing "the unprecedented historical occurrence of...an event eliminating its own witness." Through the alternation of a literary and clinical perspective, the authors focus on the henceforth modified relation between knowledge and event, literature and evidence, speech and survival, witnessing and ethics.
Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience
Publisher: JHU Press
Category: Literary Criticism
This new collection from Cathy Caruth features interviews with a diverse group of leaders in the theorization of, and response to, traumatic experience in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Crossing the boundaries of discipline and profession, Caruth’s subjects include literary theorists and critics, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists, psychologists, political activists, filmmakers, public intellectuals, institutional leaders, and researchers. Exploring the intertwining of the intellectual and personal dimensions of experience, each interview is accompanied by Caruth's intimate photographic portrait of its subject. Caruth chose her subjects because of their impact on her thinking as well as their significant role as witnesses to the collective and cultural significance of trauma. The individuals profiled here are innovators in the theory of trauma (Part I), in the clinical, activist, or testimonial interventions in trauma (Part II), or in the creation or modification of institutions that provide therapeutic, artistic, or legal responses to traumatic events (Part III). Two of the interviews first appeared in Caruth's landmark 1995 work, Trauma: Explorations in Memory. The rest were conducted between 2011 and 2013 after the field of trauma studies expanded significantly. Representing both the foundation of trauma research and cutting-edge approaches to the topic, this collection will be useful to practitioners with an interest in post-traumatic stress disorder as well as scholars exploring the multiple dimensions of profound human experience. A portion of the proceeds from sales of this book will go to the Grady Nia Project for abused, suicidal, and low-income African American women. -- M. Gerard Fromm, Author, Lost in Transmission: Studies of Trauma across GenerationsRoger Luckhurst, Professor at Birkbeck College, University of London
Literary Criticism by Gert Buelens,Samuel Durrant,Robert Eaglestone
Author: Gert Buelens,Samuel Durrant,Robert Eaglestone
Category: Literary Criticism
This collection analyses the future of ‘trauma theory’, a major theoretical discourse in contemporary criticism and theory. The chapters advance the current state of the field by exploring new areas, asking new questions and making new connections. Part one, History and Culture, begins by developing trauma theory in its more familiar post-deconstructive mode and explores how these insights might still be productive. It goes on, via a critique of existing positions, to relocate trauma theory in a postcolonial and globalized world, theoretically, aesthetically and materially, and focuses on non-Western accounts and understandings of trauma, memory and suffering. Part two, Politics and Subjectivity, turns explicitly to politics and subjectivity, focussing on the state and the various forms of subjection to which it gives rise, and on human rights, biopolitics and community. Each chapter, in different ways, advocates a movement beyond the sort of texts and concepts that are the usual focus for trauma criticism and moves this dynamic network of ideas forward. With contributions from an international selection of leading critics and thinkers from the US and Europe, this volume will be a key critical intervention in one of the most important areas in contemporary literary criticism and theory.
In this book, Roger Luckhurst both introduces and advances the fields of cultural memory and trauma studies, tracing the ways in which ideas of trauma have become a major element in contemporary Western conceptions of the self. The Trauma Question outlines the origins of the concept of trauma across psychiatric, legal and cultural-political sources from the 1860s to the coining of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in 1980. It further explores the nature and extent of ‘trauma culture’ from 1980 to the present, drawing upon a range of cultural practices from literature, memoirs and confessional journalism through to photography and film. The study covers a diverse range of cultural works, including writers such as Toni Morrison, Stephen King and W. G. Sebald, artists Tracey Emin, Christian Boltanski and Tracey Moffatt, and film-makers David Lynch and Atom Egoyan. The Trauma Question offers a significant and fascinating step forward for those seeking a greater understanding of the controversial and ever-expanding field of trauma research.
Psychology by Francoise Davoine,Jean-Max Gaudilliere
In the course of nearly thirty years of work with patients in psychiatric hospitals and private practice, Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere have uncovered the ways in which transference and countertransference are affected by the experience of social catastrophe. Handed down from one generation to the next, the unspoken horrors of war, betrayal, dissociation, and disaster in the families of patient and analyst alike are not only revived in the therapeutic relationship but, when understood, actually provide the keys to the healing process. The authors present vivid examples of clinical work with severely traumatized patients, reaching inward to their own intimate family histories as shaped by the Second World War and outward toward an exceptionally broad range of cultural references to literature, philosophy, political theory, and anthropology. Using examples from medieval carnivals and Japanese No theater, to Wittgenstein and Hannah Arendt, to Sioux rituals in North Dakota, they reveal the ways in which psychological damage is done--and undone. With a special focus on the relationship between psychoanalysis and the neurosciences, Davoine and Gaudilliere show how the patient-analyst relationship opens pathways of investigation into the nature of madness, whether on the scale of History--world wars, Vietnam--or on the scale of Story--the silencing of horror within an individual family. In order to show how the therapeutic approach to trauma was developed on the basis of war psychiatry, the authors ground their clinical theory in the work of Thomas Salmon, an American doctor from the time of the First World War. In their case studies, they illustrate how three of the four Salmon principles--proximity, immediacy, and expectancy--affect the handling of the transference-countertransference relationship. The fourth principle, simplicity, shapes the style in which the authors address their readers--that is, with the same clarity and directness with which they speak to their patients.
According to author Kirby Farrell, the concept of trauma has shaped some of the central narratives of the 1990s--from Vietnam war stories to the video farewells of Heaven's Gate cult members. In this unique study, Farrell explores the surprising uses of trauma as both an enabling fiction and an explanatory tool during periods of overwhelming cultural change.
In this book Jeffrey C. Alexander develops an original social theory of trauma and uses it to carry out a series of empirical investigations into social suffering around the globe. Alexander argues that traumas are not merely psychological but collective experiences, and that trauma work plays a key role in defining the origins and outcomes of critical social conflicts. He outlines a model of trauma work that relates interests of carrier groups, competing narrative identifications of victim and perpetrator, utopian and dystopian proposals for trauma resolution, the performative power of constructed events, and the distribution of organizational resources. Alexander explores these processes in richly textured case studies of cultural-trauma origins and effects, from the universalism of the Holocaust to the particularism of the Israeli right, from postcolonial battles over the Partition of India and Pakistan to the invisibility of the Rape of Nanjing in Maoist China. In a particularly controversial chapter, Alexander describes the idealizing discourse of globalization as a trauma-response to the Cold War. Contemporary societies have often been described as more concerned with the past than the future, more with tragedy than progress. In Trauma: A Social Theory, Alexander explains why.
Witnessing Witnessing focuses critical attention on those who receive the testimony of Holocaust survivors. Questioning the notion that traumatic experience is intrinsically unspeakable and that the Holocaust thus lies in a quasi-sacred realm beyond history, the book asks whether much current theory does not have the effect of silencing the voices of real historical victims. It thereby challenges widely accepted theoretical views about the representation of trauma in general and the Holocaust in particular as set forth by Giorgio Agamben, Cathy Caruth, Berel Lang, and Dori Laub. It also reconsiders, in the work of Theodor Adorno and Emmanuel Levinas, reflections on ethics and aesthetics after Auschwitz as these pertain to the reception of testimony. Referring at length to videotaped testimony and to texts by Charlotte Delbo, Primo Levi, and Jorge Semprun, the book aims to make these voices heard. In doing so, it clarifies the problems that anyone receiving testimony may encounter and emphasizes the degree to which listening to survivors depends on listening to ourselves and to one another. Witnessing Witnessing seeks to show how, in the situation of address in which Holocaust survivors call upon us, we discover our own tacit assumptions about the nature of community and the very manner in which we practice it.
Drawing on a wide range of texts, Michael Rothberg puts forth an overarching framework for understanding representations of the Holocaust. Through close readings of such writers and thinkers as Theodor Adorno, Maurice Blanchot, Ruth Klüger, Charlotte Delbo, Art Spiegelman, and Philip Roth and an examination of films by Steven Spielberg and Claude Lanzmann, Rothberg demonstrates how the Holocaust as a traumatic event makes three fundamental demands on representation: a demand for documentation, a demand for reflection on the limits of representation, and a demand for engagement with the public.
Trauma is a compelling and evocative topic in the contemporary world and as reflected in its literature. In unraveling trauma's effects, the texts studied in this volume reveal the intricacies of power and the relationship between society's demands and the individual's psychological well-being.
Social Science by Monica J. Casper,Eric H.R. Wertheimer
Understanding Violence, Conflict and Memory in Everyday Life
Author: Monica J. Casper,Eric H.R. Wertheimer
Publisher: NYU Press
Category: Social Science
Trauma is a universal human experience. While each person responds differently to trauma, its presence in our lives nonetheless marks a continual thread through human history and prehistory. In Critical Trauma Studies, a diverse group of writers, activists, and scholars of sociology, anthropology, literature, and cultural studies reflects on the study of trauma and how multidisciplinary approaches lend richness and a sense of deeper understanding to this burgeoning field of inquiry. The original essays within this collection cover topics such as female suicide bombers from the Chechen Republic, singing prisoners in Iranian prison camps, sexual assault and survivor advocacy, and families facing the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. As it proceeds, Critical Trauma Studies never loses sight of the way those who study trauma as an academic field, and those who experience, narrate, and remediate trauma as a personal and embodied event, inform one another. Theoretically adventurous and deeply particular, this book aims to advance trauma studies as a discipline that transcends intellectual boundaries, to be mapped but also to be unmoored from conceptual and practical imperatives. Remaining embedded in lived experiences and material realities, Critical Trauma Studies frames the field as both richly unbounded and yet clearly defined, historical, and evidence-based.
Felman elucidates the power and originality of Lacan's work. She brilliantly analyzes Lacan's investigation of psychoanalysis not as dogma but as an ongoing self-critical process of discovery. By focusing on Lacan's singular way of making Freud's thought new again--and of thus enabling us to participate in the very moment of intellectual struggle and insight--Felman shows how this moment of illumination has become crucial to contemporary thinking and has redefined insight as such.