EL 594.03: Advanced Topics in English Literature
Hande Tekdemir, [email protected]
Trauma Fiction
Course Objectives:
While providing a general background on trauma theory and the developing field of trauma
studies, this class will attempt to read and interpret two different sets of literary texts as trauma
narratives: 1) 20th century fiction, and primarily Virginia Woolf’s work 2) texts that focus on a
traumatic event, particularly the Holocaust accounts.
We will start with examining how theories of trauma developed from Charcot and Freud’s work
and discuss the emergence of trauma studies as a field in 1980s, with the American Psychiatric
Association’s official recognition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which included
symptoms of shell shock, delayed stress syndrome, and traumatic neurosis, among others.
Trauma studies in social theory initially focused mostly on representations of the Holocaust,
but gradually the field evolved into a theoretical paradigm for literary studies, and also assumed
a more interdisciplinary approach. Our main goal will be to read and learn about the field: while
reading the theoretical works of leadings scholars in the field, we will briefly focus on canonical
texts on the Holocaust. Secondly, we will read Woolf’s work in the light of trauma theory, and
consider how trauma theory can inform our reading of 20th century fiction, particularly Woolf’s
work (and vice versa).
Requirements and Evaluation:
Class participation
% 20
Online response papers at wiki (5 in total, 1000 words each)
% 25
Discussion questions +discussion leader
% 15
Conference abstract + Final paper
% 40
Schedule of Readings:
Week 1, Feb. 10: Introduction
Week 2, Feb. 19 (tentatively scheduled for Thursday, at 14:30): Cathy Caruth, “Trauma
and Experience” in Trauma: Explorations of Memory
excerpt from The Future of Trauma Theory
Week 3, Feb. 24: Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway
Virginia Woolf, “Modern Fiction”
Jonathan Flatley, & “Modernity and Loss” (28-32) Affective Mapping
Week 4, March 3: continue Mrs. Dalloway
Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Cathy Caruth, “Traumatic Departures: Survival and History in Freud” in Unclaimed
Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History
Week 5, March 10: Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Week 6, March 17: Theses on the Philosophy of History” by Walter Benjamin
“Mourning and Melancholia” by Sigmund Freud
Intro. in Loss: The Politics of Mourning (p. 1-7) by David L. Eng and David Kazanjian
Week 7, March 24: excerpts from Primo Levi’s work
Shoshana Felman, from Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and
Week 8, March 31: selected films and documentaries on the Holocaust
Dominick La Capra, from Writing History, Writing Trauma
Week 9, April 7: Marc Nichanian (TBA)
Dori Laub, “Truth and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle” in Trauma: Explorations of
Week 10, April 14: guest lecturer, Lindsay Janssen, Radboud University Nijmegen,
readings (TBA)
Week 11, April 28: Woolf, Between the Acts
Week 12, May 5: selection from Woolf, diaries & letters
Walter Benjamin, “The Storyteller”
Week 13, May 12: TBA
We might have two addititonal meetings during the week of May 19th and May 26th, date
and location TBA.
Possible additions if we have time:
Cathy Caruth, “Introduction: The Wound and the Voice” Unclaimed Experience: Trauma,
Narrative, and History
a Beckett novel OR Kafka, The Trial
Anne Whitehead, Trauma Fiction
George Steiner, Language and Silence
Hartman, Geoffrey. 2003. “Trauma within the Limits of Literature.” European Journal of
English Studies 7.3: 257-74.