The First World War as Cultural Trauma

Alan Kramer

in The Oxford Handbook of Fascism

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594788
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 The First World War as Cultural Trauma

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This article incorporates two complex concepts: trauma and culture. Trauma in the original medical sense meant simply a physical injury; it came to mean a state of shock brought on by injury; and in psychoanalysis it means the condition that can result from an emotional shock. Traditionalists might object that trauma is only individual, not collective; there can therefore be no cultural trauma. However, the term ‘collective traumatic memory’ can justifiably be used in relation to the experience of war. This article argues that individuals could sometimes express the traumatic experience of the war in a way which transcended the personal and could symbolize collective experience and mentalities. To understand the cultural trauma of war, it explains the enthusiasm for war in certain cultures and sections of societies, what occasioned the trauma, and how culture reacted to it.

Keywords: cultural trauma; culture; warfare; collective trauma; emotional shock; physical injury

Article.  9139 words. 

Subjects: History ; Military History

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