Key Concepts in Trauma from LaCapra

Foundational Trauma: the sense tha traumatic events in the past may be adopted and internalized in such a way that “recovery” or “getting over it” is seen to “dishonor” the trauma, or as a betrayal to the victims.  Thus, the identification with that past experience of trauma becomes foundational in the personal or collective identity.  This would tie in directly with Perreault’s autography, in that the autobiographical record of traumatic experience becomes the foundation for collective identity.  Berlant’s intimate publics may also be used to interrogate the ways in which such expressions of trauma become socially regulated – certain narratives become “acceptable” while those narratives of “moving on” are publicly rejected.

Ethical questions of agency when victims of trauma subsequently engage in behaviors that may or will traumatize others.

Middle Voice (from Barthes): a type of writing in action, where the act of speaking is imbricated within the social and psychological forces of the trauma itself.  I would juxtapose this with Gornick’s sense of life writing as engaged in the process of coming to know oneself as opposed to the popular notion that memoir is simply revelatory.

Faux Memoir: we’re all familiar with these, but LaCapra also opens the question as to the degree to which they might be evaluated as literature, or the degree to which the authors might actually see themselves as emotionally affected by secondary trauma, as opposed to the issue that such false testimonies may be written simply to claim the recognition of the victim’s identity for the author.

This ties in directly to Smith and Watson’s discussion of the crisis in testimony that results from such false witnessing.  We might also consider this in terms of the vaccine controversy, where the association between vaccines and autism is emphasized through the “witness” narratives of individuals like Jenny McCarthy.  Is it a case of “false” witness if the witness simply didn’t know what was being seen?  Then compare this with Offit’s example of the autism expert who could describe autism symptoms exhibited by a child at a birthday party before vaccines were administered.

Limitations of criticism when addressing genuine memoirs by a victim (such as Wiesel’s Night).

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