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Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History
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Manufacturer: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5Average rating of 3.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 809.93353
EAN: 9780801852473
ISBN: 0801852471
Label: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Manufacturer: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 168
Publication Date: 1996-06-11
Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Studio: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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Editorial Reviews:

"If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet." -- from the Introduction

In Unclaimed Experience, Cathy Caruth proposes that in the "widespread and bewildering experience of trauma" in our century -- both in its occurrence and in our attempt to understand it -- we can recognize the possibility of a history no longer based on simple models of straightforward experience and reference. Through the notion of trauma, she contends, we come to a new understanding that permits history to arise where immediate understanding is impossible. In her wide-ranging discussion, Caruth engages Freud's theory of trauma as outlined in Moses and Monotheism and Beyond the Pleasure Principle; the notion of reference and the figure of the falling body in de Man, Kleist, and Kant; the narratives of personal catastrophe in Hiroshima mon amour; and the traumatic address in Lecompte's reinterpretation of Freud's narrative of the dream of the burning child.

"Unclaimed Experience is a splendid work, written with admirable clarity, power, and economy. The book has importance for a number of different fields: for psychoanalysis, for trauma theory or theory of 'post-traumatic stress disorder,' for literary study, for literary theory for cultural and historical studies, and for ethical theory. Each chapter is a classic essay on its topic." -- J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine

"Cathy Caruth has emerged as one of our most innovative scholars on what we call trauma, and on our ways of perceiving and conceptualizing that still mysterious phenomenon." -- Robert Jay Lifton, M.D., author of Hiroshima in America and The Protean Self




Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Essential reading for Trauma Studies
Comment: If you want to understand the state of trauma studies in their relation to the humanities, you absolutely must be familiar with Caruth's work. This book and her collection of edited essays were in large part responsible for the work on trauma within literature, film, and cultural studies since 1990.

It is important to recognize that Caruth is neither a clinician nor a psychiatrist. She is working on analyzing written and filmed texts ranging from Freud's theories in "The Interpretation of Dreams," "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" and "Moses and Monotheism" to Paul de Man's post-structuralist literary theory to Alain Resnais's film "Hiroshima Mon Amour" to understand how these texts theorize trauma. She is interested in the discourse that has developed around trauma, the written record that affects how we--as literary scholars AND as psychologists, psychiatrists, and physicians--currently conceive of trauma.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Comment on Feb. review
Comment: The previous reviewer lists three psychiatrists/neuroscientists, Daniel Schacter, Joseph Ledoux, and Richard McNally, that are very important to trauma studies; however, his or her claim that Caruth "ignored" the work of these scientists is misleading and unfair.

Her book was published in 1996, while the majority of these men's work on trauma appeared in the late 1990s and the 2000s. Schacter, who has been publishing longer that the other two, did have a book published in 1994 on memory. However, "trauma" does not even appear in the index. While the work of pschyiatrists and neuroscientists can illuminate other, more literarially-minded trauma theorists today, most of these sources were not available to Caruth.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5Average rating of 1/5
Summary: Canonized substandard scholarship
Comment: Were it not for the outspoken protection of Shoshana Felman (founder of "trauma studies" in the Humanities) and Caruth's own clique-ish entente with Doctors Dori Laub and Bessel Van der Kolk (trauma experts of choice among Humanistic scholars), this book would have never come to light. The book has been widely and uncritically acclaimed by literary scholars, though anyone expecting to draw any insight from it would do better reading chapter 8 of Ruth Leys's "Trauma. A Genealogy".

The book blatantly misquotes Freud and Lacan for the sake of her own argumentative convenience. For example, her manipulation of the text of Freud's "Moses and Monotheism" in chapter 3 is plain ludicrous. Furthermore, it ignores the extensive body of work undertaken by psychiatrists and neuroscientists such as Daniel Schacter, Joseph Ledoux, and Richard McNally. There is not a iota in medical evidence that supports Prof. Caruth's claims, yet this book has earned her a tenured teaching position at Emory University.

The book is founded on Bessel van der Kolk's claim that the traumatic event, because of its unordinary emotional intensity, fails to register itself in the cerebral cortex but is registered instead in the amygdala (this piece of psychiatric folklore has long been discredited by the statistical evidence that a vast majority of trauma victims remember consciously the traumatic event). According to Caruth, the trauma is experienced as such in its literal and veridical repetition in the psychological life of the survivor. That is to say that the trauma is a belated experience. Yet there are plenty of holes in this claim, starting with the confusion between a state of shock as such (which implies an inability to respond to an event, not to experience it). My main beef with this book is the author's quasimystical emphasis in the assumption that the survivor of trauma serves as a witness to the wound of those who have not survived, no matter how emotional it sounds, conceals many ethically problematic implications, not the least of which would be granting the charismatic status of trauma victim to the perpetrator of any lethal aggression.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5Average rating of 3/5
Summary: Good, but no enough
Comment: This book is a collection of excelent essays by Cathy Caruth, but it is not clearly tagged as such. The problem is that some concepts, and sometimes entire phrases are repeated from chapter to chapter. This is specially true for the sections about Freud's notions about history and trauma, where the interpretation of Moses and Monotheism is read time and time again.


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