The Location of Trauma Open Access
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The entrance of the study of trauma into literary criticism created a common ground between the latter discipline and the discipline of psychiatry. The common ground is yet largely undefined; this dissertation proffers to further define the common areas of inquiry between these disciplines in the analysis of narratives around the theme of traumatic experiences. Although the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has conceptually anchored the study of trauma in the latter decades of the twentieth century, the boundaries of what constitutes a traumatic experience has been extended in literary criticism. I propose a three dimensional way of analyzing texts whose themes involve trauma: trauma as an event, as an experience and as narrativization. By using these three, interlocking dimensions as templates in reading texts, contemporary trauma theory acts as a theory and a compass in reading familiar, and not-so familiar, texts. Cathy Caruth's theory is reflected against and along with Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan, to investigate mutilation as a form of trauma locatable not only in the physical body, but also locatable as a recurring trope in the narrativization of the trauma and to investigate the writing of history through the lens of trauma studies - where trauma is, there history shall be.I begin with circumcision and its significance as commonly performed phallic markings inflicted on the genitalia of men. Circumcision is dramatized in literary works spread out through several centuries in such disparate works as Robert Daborne's A Christian Turn'd Turk (1612), Phillip Massinger's The Renegado (1630), Freud's Moses and Monotheism and Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain (1997). These texts are analyzed along unifying themes of the religious Symbolic and traumatic ruptures in father-son dynamics, with circumcision as the first traumatic topos. Other texts in this dissertation include Ernest Hemingway's In Our Time (1925) and The Sun Also Rises (1926), interrogated not only as literary works representing personal trauma but also as acts of repetition compulsion. Freud's Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1926), if read alongside Hemingway's psychobiography, questions whether the location of an author's trauma could be palpated not only in the texts he writes and in his psychobiography, but also in what he does not write. I argue that Toni Morrison's novel Beloved (1987) configures itself according to symptoms commonly associated with clinical trauma. Franz Fanon's Black Skin, White Mask (1952) is a difficult text not only because it straddles genres, but also because of its testimonial quality that exhibits the trauma of the colonized. Castration and the trauma of abjection in the transgendered minority of India, the hijra, are the themes in Chapter Five. Chapter Six is on Joan Didion's (2005) memoir of the sudden and unexpected loss of her husband. My purpose in analyzing this memoir is to draw similarities between mourning and trauma.