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Contemporary American Trauma Narratives$
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Alan Gibbs

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748641147

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748641147.001.0001

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The Trauma Paradigm and Its Discontents

The Trauma Paradigm and Its Discontents

(p.1) Introduction The Trauma Paradigm and Its Discontents
Contemporary American Trauma Narratives

Alan Gibbs

Edinburgh University Press

The Introduction assesses and critiques the notion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related theories of trauma that have come to be dominant in cultural and literary studies of the phenomenon. Cornerstones of these theories – including belatedness (or Nachträglichkeit), the allegedly literal character of traumatic flashbacks, and the idea that trauma is necessarily caused by a sudden event – are interrogated, and in the field of cultural trauma studies, the work of Cathy Caruth in particular is critiqued. Discussion also centres on the emergence of what this study refers to as the ‘trauma genre’, a self-perpetuating circle of literary works according to an approved aesthetic and its attendant criticism. The Introduction finally broaches wider paradigms for the discussion of trauma in contemporary culture, for example the experience of the perpetrator.

Keywords:   post-traumatic stress disorder, Caruth, Nachträglichkeit, perpetrator trauma, trauma genre, postcolonial trauma, Whitehead, Vickroy

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