REFLECTING ON THE 2015 CILIP CONFERENCE
Written by Martin Mullin, Head of UK Acquisitions. CILIP is the Chartered […]
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Trauma and its often symptomatic aftermath pose acute problems for historical representation and understanding. In Writing History, Writing Trauma, Dominick LaCapra provides a broad-ranging, critical inquiry into the problem of trauma, notably with respect to major historical events. In a series of interlocking essays, he explores theoretical and literary-critical attempts to come to terms with trauma as well as the crucial role post-traumatic testimonies -- particularly Holocaust testimonies -- have assumed in recent thought and writing. In doing so, he adapts psychoanalytic concepts to historical analysis and employs sociocultural and political critique to elucidate trauma and its after effects in culture and in people.
In the first chapter LaCapra addresses trauma from the perspective of history as a discipline. He then lays a theoretical groundwork for the book as a whole, exploring the concept of historical specificity and insisting on the difference between transhistorical and historical trauma. Subsequent chapters consider how Holocaust testimonies raise the problem of the role of affect and empathy in historical understanding, and respond to the debates surrounding Daniel Jonah Goldhagen's book Hitler's Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. The book's concluding essay, "Writing (About) Trauma," examines the various ways that the voice of trauma emerges in written and oral accounts of historical events. Theoretically ambitious and historically informed, Writing History, Writing Trauma is an important contribution from one of today's foremost experts on trauma.
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