According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “trauma” (noun) refers to “a wound or external bodily injury in general; also the condition caused by this.” Shifting from the physical to the psychological, “trauma” analogously denotes “a psychic injury, esp. one caused by emotional shock the memory of which is repressed and remains unhealed.” In adjectival form, “traumatic” signifies the following: “of, pertaining to, or caused by a psychic wound or emotional shock, esp. leading to or causing behavioral disturbance.” Within recent memory, these “psychic wounds” and “emotional shocks” are inextricably linked to war and state-authorized mass violence. As Cathy Caruth avers in “Unclaimed Experience: Trauma and the Possibility of History,” “The experience of the solider faced with sudden and massive death around him, for example, who suffers this sight in a numbed state, only to relive it later on in repeated nightmares, is a central and recurring image of trauma in our century” (1996, 10). Haunted by “repeated nightmares” of “sudden and massive death,” Caruth’s didactic vignette encompasses a now-familiar psychological narrative of a priori violence, presentist (non) response, and unreconciled aftermath.

This essay may be found on page 235 of the printed volume.

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