Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature

Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature

Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature

Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature

Synopsis

It may be said that every trauma is two traumas or ten thousand-depending on the number of people involved. How one experiences and reacts to an event is unique and depends largely on one's direct or indirect positioning, personal psychic history, and individual memories. But equally important to the experience of trauma are the broader political and cultural contexts within which a catastrophe takes place and how it is "managed" by institutional forces, including the media.
In Trauma Culture, E. Ann Kaplan explores the relationship between the impact of trauma on individuals and on entire cultures and nations. Arguing that humans possess a compelling need to draw meaning from personal experience and to communicate what happens to others, she examines the artistic, literary, and cinematic forms that are often used to bridge the individual and collective experience. A number of case studies, including Sigmund Freud's Moses and Monotheism, Marguerite Duras' La Douleur, Sarah Kofman's Rue Ordener, Rue Labat, Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound, and Tracey Moffatt's Night Cries, reveal how empathy can be fostered without the sensationalistic element that typifies the media.
From World War II to 9/11, this passionate study eloquently navigates the contentious debates surrounding trauma theory and persuasively advocates the responsible sharing and translating of catastrophe.

Excerpt

This book is about the impact of trauma both on individuals and on entire cultures or nations, and about the need to share and [translate] such traumatic impact. My study of trauma and its cultural politics opens with reference to 9/11 because the catastrophe offers insight into some of the book's main themes, namely that trauma produces new subjects, that the politicalideological context within which traumatic events occur shapes their impact, and that it is hard to separate individual and collective trauma. The experience of 9/11 also demonstrates the difficulties of generalizing about trauma and its impact, for, as Freud pointed out long ago, how one reacts to a traumatic event depends on one's individual psychic history, on memories inevitably mixed with fantasies of prior catastrophes, and on the particular cultural and political context within which a catastrophe takes place, especially how it is [managed] by institutional forces.

Also important about trauma is how one defines it. Trauma studies originated in the context of research about the Holocaust. This event was of such a magnitude as to warrant the use of trauma in its historical (one might say [classical]) form. Some of the films and other texts I study deal with World War II and the Holocaust, but the narratives involve not internees or soldiers but relatives of internees or women and children living in terror because of World War II. Other films are about descendants of indigenous peoples in postcolonial contexts, who are also living in terror still after centuries of displacement and attempted annihilation. Such daily experience of terror may not take the shape of classic trauma suffered by victims or survivors, but to deny these experiences as traumatic would be a mistake. Instead, I extend the concept of trauma to include suffering terror. This should not make the term meaningless. Rather, one recognizes degrees and kinds of trauma. The impact of a major public event on relatives indirectly involved in terror I call [family] or [quiet trauma,] following other scholars. Retaining the concept in this broader way allows work like my own to be linked with work that favors a more narrow definition. The word [trauma] gestures toward a sphere of knowledge or a terrain that my book contributes to. I contribute precisely by addressing problems of definition and in . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.