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The Nature of Trauma in American Novels - 3/26/2013 -

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The Nature of Trauma in American Novels

  1. Tuesday, March 26th, 20134:00pm - 5:00pm
In her book, The Nature of Trauma in American Novels, Dr. Michelle Balaev examines trauma in American literature by first examining psychological theories that offer differing views on what trauma is and how it is experienced and remembered. From here she broadens the psychological models available to literary critics in order to suggest that trauma is multiply represented in art. These representations include pathological and non-pathological formulations in the novel. Her main point is that trauma should not be synonymous with an epistemological void (speechless, unrepresentable) because the psychological research does not support this and artistic representations do not singularly support this. She also argues that trauma is contextually understood, imagined, and remembered in fiction in relation to such factors as culture, place, time period, and landscape. She takes an ecocritical approach to examine landscape imagery as a medium that conveys the value of trauma in the novel for the protagonist and/or community. She introduces terms such as the traumatized protagonist to look at how the individual functions as a cultural representative. This is not to say that transhistorical trauma is valid (which she argues against), but that art elicits a connection between the personal and public by creating a character who resonates with collective events. These are events that large groups have experienced such as natural disasters, war, or large-scale forced assimilation based upon racist ideologies and practices. She also introduces the term narrative dissociation to analyze the rhetorical strategies of expressing psychological dissociation. The novels examined closely include the genres of African American literature, Asian American literature, Native American literature, Western American literature, and Pacific American literature.

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