Mimetic vs Anti-Mimetic Theories of Trauma

 Radstone writes that

Something else gets lost, too, in trauma theory’s retreat from the significance of unconscious process of memory formation and revision.  And emphasis on the centrality of unconscious process to all aspects of psychical life has the effect of reminding readers and analysts of two important aspects of that life.  First, a fundamental tenet of psychoanalysis is that of a continuum of psychical states.  Psychoanalysis avoids any radical differentiation between the ‘normal’ and the ‘pathalogical’.  Trauma theory, on the other hand, does tend to distinguish between the ‘normal’ and the ‘pathological’.  One has either been present at or has ‘been’ traumatized by a terrible event or one has not.  Second, whereas psychoanalysis takes the ‘darker side of the mind’ for granted, emphasizing the ubiquity of inadmissible sexual fantasies, for instance, trauma theory suggests, rather that the ‘darkness’ comes only from outside.  (18-19, author’s emphasis)   

On the whole, I’d been long unimpressed with the notion of Freud’s pscyhoanalysis. However, it’s becoming clear that I wasn’t fully aware of what psychoanalysis had originally aimed to do, and I remained ignorant of its long-term implications for theorization of the human experience.  I had not realized that trauma theory today features such a rejection of internalization – instead, I was under the impression that trauma sees trauma as a largely internal phenomenon, that trauma is the repetition (mimesis?) of an external event through the internal memory of the survivor.

Clearly, I need a better clarification on what trauma theory(ies) actually theorize regarding the internal/external divide.  This could also relate to posthuman conceptions of informatics and identity.  Are we biological machines?  Are we disembodied minds simply inhabiting a neurological substrate?  Does conscious thought represent identity, or is it “merely” and evolutionary epiphenomenon?

In terms of my dissertation, these speculations again represent an extreme degree of “reaching.”  Fitting them within the scope of my work, it would make the most sense to convey the relevance of these issues to my personal life via the life writing chapters.  This could tie in well with the teaching internship material, since much of my teaching approach for that course was built on the idea that there is a disconnect between writing ability and emotional expression.  I still feel that the difference is very important when it comes to theorizing pedagogy, but I don’t know that we have the data to actually describe why this matters, let alone how to account for it in our teaching.

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