trauma theory

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A body of 20th-century psychological research into the effects upon people of various traumatic events (assault, rape, war, famine, incarceration, etc.), leading to the official recognition in the 1980s of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Concepts developed from that work have since the 1990s been taken up and developed as an interdisciplinary field of study involving literature, psychology, history, and philosophy, with a concentration upon questions of memory, forgetting, and narrative. The impact of trauma theory on literary studies was felt from the publication of essays by various critics in Trauma: Explorations in Memory (ed. Cathy Caruth, 1995) and of Caruth's own study, Unclaimed Experience (1996). Since then, a number of specialized critical writings have applied trauma theory to the memoirs of Holocaust survivors and war veterans, and to topics such as sexual violence in women's fiction. For a fuller account, consult Anne Whitehead, Trauma Fiction (2004).

Subjects: Literature.

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