CU 361 - The Culture of Trauma

The course examines the rise of trauma as a prominent cultural discourse for the representation of individual and collective injuries and catastrophic events in the 20th and 21st centuries. The course will follow the historical process through which trauma transformed from a specialized medical and psychoanalytical term into a household concept that permeates our culture. Students will become familiar with the cultural uses to which the early models of trauma have been put and with the major controversies surrounding them as trauma became a more general cultural concept, including debates about collective and inherited trauma, vicarious trauma, and repressed memories and the cultural impact of representing experiences of harm and disempowerment. Scholarly material on trauma will be juxtaposed with a selection of European and American narratives (literature, memoir, and film), exemplifying the challenges of representing, narrating and responding to trauma. This allows students to recognize and empathetically, yet critically respond to the cultural conventions that have developed in audio-visual representations of trauma. Students will also reflect on how a contemporary culture of trauma affects our own time in such practices, for instance, as the consumption of mediated suffering on television and the internet or the creation of “safe” environments in education.

Course Information


Cultural Studies

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