It is interesting that while A. D. Nuttall's investigations in Why Does Tragedy Give Pleasure? focus mainly on ancient and Elizabethan tragedies, he decides to answer the question of his title in the mid-1990s. While trauma has long been the subject of scholarly attention in many other fields, very little has been written on the subject in the context of theatre and performance. Trauma, like performance, is a complex and polysemic phenomenon. Raymond Williams' writings, particularly Modern Tragedy (1966), and his idea of 'structure of feeling' have proved both profitable and influential in the development of the research presented in this book. The book critically traces a particular, 'performative' genealogy of trauma theory through Jean-Martin Charcot and Freud to Cathy Caruth and other contemporary theorists. It addresses the theatrics of Charcot's practice as a means both of articulating the performative lineage of trauma theory and to suggest that trauma symptoms are themselves performative in nature. The book also argues that Williams' notion of 'structure of feeling' can be used to identify a contemporary, societal 'psychic' trauma (in the West) which pervades daily existence. The possibility that live performance can put the spectator into an experience of trauma's central paradox is explored. The book discusses what it means to witness and to be witnessed in the context of trauma in performance. Audience experience, the events of Abu Ghraib, and specific instances of theatrical trauma are discussed. Finally, the book considers questions of ethics in relation to performance which addresses trauma.
Samuel Beckett and trauma is a collection of essays that opens new approaches to Beckett’s literary and theoretical work through the lens of trauma studies. Beginning with biographical and intertextual readings of instances of trauma in Beckett’s works, the essays take up performance studies, philosophical and cultural understanding of post-traumatic subjectivity, and provide new perspectives that will expand and alter current trauma studies. Chapter 1 deals with a whole range of traumatic symptoms in Beckett’s personal experiences which find their ways into a number of his works. Chapter 2 investigates traumatic symptoms experienced by actors on stage. Chapter 3 examines the problem of unspeakability by focusing on the face which illuminates the interface between Beckett’s work and trauma theory. Chapter 4 explores the relationship between trauma and skin – a psychic skin that reveals the ‘force and truth’ of trauma, a force that disrupts the apparatus of representation. Chapter 5 considers trauma caused by a bodily defect such as tinnitus. Chapter 6 focuses on the historically specific psychological structure in which a wounded subject is compelled to stick to ordinary life in the aftermath of some traumatic calamity. Chapter 7 provides a new way of looking at birth trauma by using the term as ‘creaturely life’ that is seen in the recent biopolitical discourses. Chapter 8 speculates on how Beckett’s post-war plays, responding to the nuclear age’s global trauma, resonate with ethical and philosophical thoughts of today’s post-Cold War era.
‘Daddy!’ she screams. ‘Daddy!’ –
Her voice is snatched away by the boom of the surf.
Her father turns aside, with a word
She cannot hear. She chokes –
Hands are cramming a gag into her mouth.
They bind it there with cord, like a horse’s bit […]
Now rough hands rip off her silks
And the wind waltzes with them
Down across the beach, and over the surf.
Her eyes swivel in their tears.
She recognises her killers.
(Aeschylus 1999: 15)
On 22 February 2007 I read an article detailing the gang rape of a
fourteen-year-old Iraqi girl and
a structure of feeling
In 1971, Chris Burden stood five metres away from a friend who shot
him with a .22 calibre rifle. The bullet was only supposed to graze
his arm but Burden flinched slightly as the gun was fired, moving his
arm fully into the path of the oncoming bullet. It pierced his skin, tore
through his bicep and exited through the flesh on the back of his arm.
Shoot has become one of Burden’s best known works and he said
of the piece that ‘it seems that bad art is theatre […] Getting shot
is for real […] there’s no element of
trauma theorists, drawing on Freudian psychoanalysis, describe the
traumatic position as one of stasis and silence in which narration is an
essential vehicle for recovery leading to the capacity for
action and psychological well-being (Mukherjee, 2001 : 49–62, citing Caruth et al.).
Notwithstanding the use of the term ‘trauma’ to refer mostly
to highly dramatic and disturbing experience, it is defined more
Claiming trauma: women in
the Vietnam War
The Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC is an isolated
island of suffering (Figure 5.1). Placed at a distance from the Vietnam
Veterans Memorial – the Wall– and the ‘Three Soldiers’ statue, it exists
outside these more traditionally masculine commemorative narratives of
war: the warrior and the dead (see Figures 5.2 and 5.3). Instead, it depicts
the women’s war story, particularly that of the nurse. She is locked forever
in the moment of holding the dying soldier – a pietà in which there is no
Beckett and trauma
Beckett and trauma: the father’s death and
Recent discussions of trauma
This chapter begins by focusing on trauma in relation to recent
discussions concerning the causes and symptoms of a traumatic
reaction to an event. The website ‘Emotional and Psychological
Trauma: Causes, Symptoms, Help’ contends that ‘[i]t’s not the
objective facts that determine whether an event is traumatic but
[the] subjective emotional experience of the event’ (Robinson,
Smith and Segal, 1). This is very useful, as it cautions against
criticism, here the narrowmindedness of the Catholic hierarchy, with a seductively photographed vision of small-town Ireland in the era of rural electrification.
The release of Stella Days was more of an anachronism than a trend, with few contemporary Irish filmmakers interested in replicating its aesthetic. Instead, the early twenty-first century witnessed the release of a series of high-profile history films that revisited the past as a site of trauma. A number of these dealt with the Troubles (and are discussed in the next chapter). Of the remainder – The
The West of which we speak is defined by the values of liberal democracy,
individual freedom, human rights, tolerance and equality under the rule of law.
This book explores how Islamist terror and Russian aggression as companion
threats to the West when terrorists target Russia as well as the United States
and its allies. The threats posed by Islamist terror and Russian aggression
present themselves in very different ways. In the time of transatlantic traumas,
the Islamist terrorist threat and the Russian threat have worked diligently and
with some success. The book examines the hatred of Islamists towards Western
democracies, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union for
their involvement in the Middle East politics for several decades. There is no
single explanation for the rising popularity of illiberalism in the Western
democracies; a combination of factors has produced a general sense of malaise.
The book discusses the sources of discontent prevailing in the Western
countries, and looks at the rise of Trumpism, Turkey and its Western values as
well as the domestic tensions between Turkey's political parties. It
suggests a radical centrist populist Western strategy could be applied to deal
with the threats and challenges, reinvigorating the Western system. The book
also touches upon suggestions relating to illiberalism in Europe, Turkey's
drift away from the West, and the Brexit referendum.
This chapter describes the Northern
Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation (NICTT)’s training
development and delivery programmes over ten years, focusing in
particular on vocational training. The aim was to build the skills base
of existing practitioners by providing a number of cognitive behavioural
therapy (CBT) and trauma-related skills courses. The approach taken was