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On Traumatic Knowledge and Literary Studies

Author(s): Geoffrey H. Hartman


Reviewed work(s):
Source: New Literary History, Vol. 26, No. 3, Higher Education (Summer, 1995), pp. 537-563
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20057300 .
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On Traumatic

Knowledge

and Literary Studies

Geoffrey H. Hartman
I
Both

philosophical
and linguistic
of the
skepticism, whether
anarchic or the methodical
have
the
kind,
challenged
possibility
of certain knowledge. Trauma theory introduces a psychoanalytic
as well, which does not give up on knowledge
but suggests the
skepticism
of a traumatic kind, one that cannot be made
existence
entirely con
or
sense
of
retrieved
the
communicated
in
without
scious,
being fully

Can we bear, Adam Phillips asks, "our inevitable ignorance?"


a paradox,
that is, "an expert on the
Is the contemporary
psychoanalyst
truths of uncertainty"?1 A theory emerges focusing on the relationship
of words and trauma, and helping us to "read the wound" with the aid of

distortion.

literature.

is perking
of what
in literary studies must
remain
My account
a
a
virtual
like
tentative. We have only
beginning,
something
community
of explorers.
The theory derives mainly
from psychoanalytic
sources,
It recasts, in effect, an
though it is strongly affected by literary practice.
is art, or what kind of knowl
older question: what kind of knowledge
edge does it foster?
The theory holds
comes
which
from

that the knowledge


of trauma, or the knowledge
that source,
is composed
of two contradictory
elements.
One
is the traumatic event, registered
rather than experi
enced. It seems to have bypassed perception
and consciousness,
and falls
a
the
into
The
kind
other
is
of
of
the
in
event,
memory
psyche.
directly
or
the form of a perpetual
it
of
the
troping
by
severely split
bypassed
literal and figurative may
(dissociated)
psyche. On the level of poetics,
to these two types of cognition.
correspond
seem to be a contradiction
Traumatic
in
then, would
knowledge,
as
to
as
to
terms. It is
nescience
close
Any general descrip
knowledge.
tion or modeling
of trauma, therefore, risks being figurative
itself, to the
"falls" into the psyche, or
point of mythic
fantasmagor?a.
Something
causes it to "split." There
is an original
inner catastrophe
whereby/in
an
that is not experienced
which
not
(and so, apparently,
experience
inscribed with a force propor
"real") has an exceptional
presence?is
tional

to the mediations

New Literary History,

punctured

or evaded.

Reading

1995, 26: 537-563

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such accounts,

538

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

that try to be clinical and rational yet are as highly imaginative as Lacan's
I am put in mind of William
Blake's revision of the "primal
mathemes,
scene"

of Genesis,

with

its

cosmogonie

chaos

or

tohu-va-bohu.

a mysterious

in the heavens
turbulence
that expels or
depicts
in
segregates a god (Urizen). The fall is thus a divine sickness, a disorder
as in Christian
the heavens; and it does not happen
after the Creation,
of the Book of Genesis;
is itself the
rather Creation
interpretations
at
once
a mysteri
off
and
the
of
reification
shock,
catastrophe,
splitting
ous diminishment.
or rather into a
We fall into Creation,
parody-world
in the image of Urizen,
made
its tyrant-demiurge,
and confirmed
by
and terror-stricken
mankind's
complicitous
imagination.2
Blake sometimes
is a psychomachia:
reveals that his titanomachia
the
Blake

an ideal human
loss.
being seeking to reverse a mysterious
imaginings of
An ancestor-figure
tries to recover?to
he names Albion
dream himself
back to?a state of unity and self-integration.
But Albion's dream cannot
a
or
it is therefore mostly
constricted
easily escape history,
imagination:
a repetitious
or institutionalized
itself
of
internalized
purging
nightmare
we
now
works
them
would
be tempted to
Albion
superstitions.
through,
say.

The hyperbolic
picture of trauma we find in Blake is justified when we
a child's impressionability
and vulnerability,
that consti
qualities

recall
tute,

as Winnicott

and

others

have

observed,

necessary,

even

creative

the miracle
of maturation,
adults do not
part of development.
Despite
overcome
If
the
itself
infant
that childhood
imagination
projects
phase.
onto what appears to be a giant, that is, a grown human being, and if it
to moment
itsmoment
had the capacity to articulate
fears and fantasies,
a
we
cartoon
not
of
Blake's
might
fantasmagor?a? And might
approach
not the ironies and ambiguities
in the poet's mature
vision, or the
of
and
often
enchantment
and disen
sequences
vacillating
confusing
chantment,

reflect

very

early

developmental

ambivalence

dualism?
too
We

or

even

is
his brooding
ask, like Blake's dreaming
giant
(though
a
of
their
what
into
translated
with
life
own):
immediately
images
did the trouble begin? Why ismy fantasy-life murky
happened? Where
and fearful: why can't I be rational and imaginative? We try to get back
to a genesis-moment
that seems to have started a fatal chain reaction
to Lacan,
the question
and manacled
both body and mind. According
as
as
father's
dream
the
of
the
Wolf
well
Freud's
Man,
analysis
motivating
about his burning
child in The Interpretation of Dreams (chapter 7), was:
the fantasy
the real, that lies behind
"What is the first encounter,
[fantasme]}"*

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ON

TRAUMATIC

KNOWLEDGE

AND

LITERARY

539

STUDIES

II
"trauma" or "hysteria" for "fantasy," this question
When we substitute
The
is answered by Freud's
Aetiology ofHysteria (1896) with the thesis that
there are one or more
of every case of hysteria
"at the bottom
occurrences
occurrences
of premature
sexual experience,
which belong
to the earliest years of childhood."
But Freud soon decided
that the
scenes of seduction
were
his
fantasies?and
that it
reported by
patients
was the fantasies which had to be treated. It has been claimed that this
was a wrong
social, and particularly
turning. Instead of acknowledging
a
became
women's,
reality, "Psychoanalysis
study of the internal vicissi
tudes of fantasy and desire, dissociated
from the reality of experience."4
Lacan suggests, however, that the question of the real never weakened
or
in Freud. Instead, it became a feverish quest because of a theoretical
in identifying
scientific mistake
that "first encounter." The real is not the
in the sense of a specific,
identifiable
thing or cause; however
a
or
it
it
is
also
its own "wake" of desire.
be,
idea,
may
burning
specific
The encounter with the real takes place, on the part of both analyst and
lost objects, and drives.5 It
analysand, within a world of death-feelings,
as
a
in
be
encounter"
described,
fact,
(the troumatique,
might
"missing
Lacan puns) or an unmediated
shock, like William
James's
"buzzing
real,

booming

confusion."

"In

the

or voices

real.

. . .

[o]ne

is either

swallowed

up

or

so commonly
by gazes
everywhere.
persecuted
on
a
comes
from
dream
from
the
realization
that
expressed
awakening
one
not
the
has
after
all
into
fallen
the
chaos
of
the
(unlike
psychotic)
real. To live as a piece of the real is to live beyond the limits of the law of
one to re-present
as if one were
the signifier
that enables
oneself
The

relief

unified."6 The symbolic realm of (verbal) signification


limits that chaos,
as
an
in
act
Creation
Blake
of
the
is
divine
that limits an
just
mercy
endless
loss: a fall into disunity,
diminishment
and
(of jouissance)
reactive

self-assertion.

to think of the real (in Lacan 's sense) as


being consciously
its locus of apperception
is somewhere
else, in another
experienced:
can
But
consciousness.
it
than
inferred
from
certain
be
effects or
place
a
that
without
veils,
symptoms,
including
repetitious
imagery
effacing,
object-loss. The real always comes amiss, Lacan says.7 It has the force of
a reversal or interruption,
one
of a peripety
by
displacing
meaning
or which
undoes
the knot of signifier and signified
that
another,
Itmay displace the mind
establishes
itself?as Juliana does
signification.
in Marvell's
"The Mower's
"For
and She / What
I
comes,
Song":
Juliana
do to the Grass, does to my Thoughts
and Me." The question of the real,
in terms of the real, only in terms of a
then, cannot be answered
It is hard

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540

NEW

traumatizing

realissimum,

for which

a more

LITERARY

common

name

HISTORY

is "the

Other."8

what identity can we give to Juliana? An event is evoked whose


we do, or speak, or
to its repeated
cedes
singularity. Whatever
meaning
to tell whether
returns
It
is
it
like
Marvell's
refrain.
this
plead,
impossible
or
on
return
is
the
side
it.
is
of memory
rhythmic
against
Something
as
or
too
in the psyche
epiphanic word
image.9 "Burnt
lodged
deeply
an unforgettable
into the brain" it becomes
if not always remembered
Indeed,

reference-point

I will suggest, finds this "real," identifies with it,


Literary knowledge,
can
even
it
its strangely
and
back, as in Marvell's
poem with
bring
or
exuberance.10 Yet, as in the Orpheus
formal, complicit
self-mocking
there is a limit to recovery, or a limit to the effort at visualization.
myth,
to say "I see" when
ismeant,
"I understand"
Every time we are tempted
we do not see, or else do not understand.

Ill
the disjunction
between
theory, because
or
and
empirical)
(thought
understanding
(phenomenal
experiencing
or their images),
is what
in which words
ful naming,
things,
replace
construction
The
and
literary
explores.11
language expresses
figurative
not a literal retrieval but a statement
of a
is obviously
of memory
to what
sort. It relates to the negative moment
in experience,
different
That
in experience
has not been, or cannot be, adequately
experienced.
or made known, in its
the
artistic
moment
is now expressed,
negativity;
for knowledge
that part of our desire
modifies
representation
Trauma
is
driven
which
by images
(scopophilia).
(epistemophilia)
on
or
a
and
throws
perhaps
language,
poetic
light
figurative
theory
as something
other
than an enhanced
in general,
symbolic process
of a prior (non) experience.
imaging or vicarious repetition
to an
as
moves
it
toward the riddle?and,
for
example,
Periphrasis,
of all verbal figuration?indicates
is characteristic
extent, this movement
a real whose
creates a tension between
(the
signified
indeterminacy
solution to the riddle) and signifier (the riddle form). Since every object
can be riddled
conundrums
this way (as Ponge and children's
attest)
and opens a creative
rather than provisional
this tension is constitutive
of singing "in the face of the object" (Wallace
the possibility
play-space,
This

leads

toward

literary

Stevens).12

nature

that provokes
of the negative
symbolic
Lacan
cannot
of
fully be determined:
signifiers
surplus
a reality hole,
and Proust mourned
"l'imperfection
The

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language and its


talks of a trou reel,
dans
incurable

ON

TRAUMATIC

KNOWLEDGE

AND

LITERARY

541

STUDIES

du pr?sent." Obversely,
the "pointing" or "bullseye"
m?me
a perfect marker by way of
to
wish
of
achieve
language?our
pretension
a successful verbal fixative of the real, even a
and
language,
magical
or
vocative?this
animating
orphie quest
communication-compulsion
(which raises voice to the luminosity and immediacy of sight) is always
always revived. The night's residue of such a hope leads
disappointed,
the day, toward basic literary questions
that follow from the
us, during
of
is
words:
strong obliquity
"Why
interpretation
necessary?" or, "Why
are there texts?" or, "Why literature, story, and not
just events, history?"
l'essence

both in literary studies and in the field of public health a


arises which
is ethical as well as clinical. There
ismore
a
of
to
within
and
words
words,
greater openness
hearing
status
in
the
of
such
formal
testimony. (While
testimony
legal hearings
and challenge,
should be and does remain subject to questioning
it is
not as often ruled out of court because of its personal,
and
emotional,
or multivocal
nature. In nonlegal
overdetermined
the psycho
situations,
a
measure
had
of
greater
already encouraged
support
analytic dialogue
even as the
ive listening;
this is now reinforced,
of the "real"
problem
cause of trauma deepens,
in the matter of recovered memo
especially
we
a
in
of
find
As
literature,
ries.13)
way
receiving the story, of listening to
an
or political
it
into
of
conversation.
Medical
it,
interpretive
drawing
reductionism
is avoided. The experts are not given the last word. The
to the patient."14
says, "must be returned
story, Kathryn Hunter
In addition,
new awareness
listening, more

IV
as well as art, an audience
Let me focus, then, on audience
that
includes
the artist as initial recipient. The post-traumatic
story often
needs a "suspension
of disbelief." The phrase
is Coleridge's,
and his
famous poem,
"The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,"
requires just that
kind of empathy. Even if the poem
is, in part, opium
induced, or, as
a
Kenneth
Burke
said elegan?y,
it is a
of the drug,"
"redemption
remarkable

externalization

of

an

internal

state.

Imagination

pursues

of fact It tries to make us believe


the
body?the
body and atmosphere
it demands
the acknowledgement
of being real, not only
unbelievable;
so include somatic feelings. We are
for doing
imagined. The means
into a species of belief
drawn
of certain
visceral
by the recovery
sensations: extremes of heat, cold and thirst, glare of color, horror of the
a traumatic
the only way to overcome
void, loss of speech. Perhaps
severance of body and mind
is to come back to mind
through the body.
We recall how voice dries up, and chokes its way out again.15
scene, of course, is coercive and puts us
Every powerfully
imagined

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542

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LITERARY

HISTORY

to believe it; at least,


into a bind. We resist believing
it;we feel compelled
an
we feel it speaks to us, to
evaded self-knowledge,
whether
profound
or base. "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
to
points
something more
real than the reality we ordinarily
inhabit; and this can strike home as an
a memorable
coined
accusation.
that
Coleridge
phrase for a conscience
has become
man's

both

absolute

oppressive

and

exalted:

"The dread

watchtower

of

self."

in this poem, or despaired


the
of, is speech itself?rather,
as
a
more
one
of
absolute
which
could
poetry
possibility
speech,
create belief, redeem.
is strangely automatic
animate, mediate,
Speech
here: the poem iswritten in an exaggerated
ballad rhythm, unmeditative
Accused,

new style, or Coleridge's


toWordsworth's
own in "Frost
when compared
at Midnight."
The meditating,
viva voce self is also overshadowed
by the
as the
fact that Coleridge
does not introspect
the Mariner:
psychology
seat of motivations
is elided. We do not get to know why he shot the
scenes of wonder
and
albatross; the poem yields only the consequences,
terror that move
of the crime by a precarious
toward a purging
and
process of catharsis. The very absence of an intuitable psyche,
prolonged
or the speechless
deed itself, sets up the possibility
that here there is no
motive based on selfhood. At most the act of killing, like kids stoning a
a cat, is provocative
a
of what is missing:
it challenges
dog or hanging
conscience

or

a moral

design

to appear.

is actually self-defeating.
If that is the case, the Mariner's
conduct
now indeed zeroes in on the killer,
of creatures
the universe
While
that same
him its center, creating a self through accusation,
making
so
act
him
that
also
excommunicates
universe
his gratuitous
radically
a
a
so
not
trou
to
vast
to
but
solitude
leads
r?el,
nothingness?to
being
seems to be absent.
that God Himself
In such a world mediation
through
speech has become
impossible.
the
order
Lacan
calls
What
(as distinct from both the real and
symbolic
itself only as an impossible
the narcissistic-imaginary)
desire,
presents
or
because
of its violation. The killer is left without prayer or blessing
community:

creatures,

spirits,

saints,

and

other

advocates

cannot

speak

of
for him, guide him, or even be the object of address. Eventually,
makes
it
clear
that
the
Mariner's
but
course, speech returns;
Coleridge
as well as compelling.
There
is a mocking
is compulsive
narrative
its plethora
of
the
with
the
between
poem,
archaizing
style
counterpoint
in
and the Mariner's
radical isolation
of daemons,
of middle-spirits,
their midst.
remains an
the human world. The Mariner
He is also isolated within
not
too
to the marriage
redeem
his
will
outsider
feast; marriage
a telling
loneliness. His spiritual progress remains limited to discovering
that might
relieve a
call it poetry or prayer,
link?a
type of speech,

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ON

TRAUMATIC

KNOWLEDGE

AND

LITERARY

STUDIES

543

it cannot end. Trauma is suggested by the ominous


repetition of
images of arrest and isolation that enter the poem even before the crime.
Lacan says that a repetition
of this kind is founded
"in the very split
in the subject at the place of encounter."
is produced
which
The interpreter's
task is always to sort out the relations between
split
or rupture
and subject.
(schize), place of [first] encounter,
repetition
The schize, in Coleridge's
poem, is inscribed as both the hypnotic pause
in which the story unfolds and an actual cut in time expressed by sudden
moments
of stasis and confirmed by amajor caesura: the
shooting of the
albatross, which divides time into before and after. The schism can even
to found the "nonsense" of this poem,
be thought
its dissociation
of
solitude

and phenomenality.
For the fantastic incidents
it presents
referentiality
are invested with a
in
itself.16
The
is
poem
phenomenality
meaningful
like a picture
that gazes at us.17
reason why the real does not appear direcdy, or why it is not
One
in a realistic mode,
is that trauma can include a rupture of the
expressed
symbolic order. That order is not destroyed by the schize; here, in fact, it
is magnified,
over against the
and stands threatening
and magnificent
so much a breach
to repair a breach?not
violator. Fantasy has entered
(In Blake,
of the symbolic as between the symbolic and the individual.
however, the breach is also in the symbolic as such.) Coleridge
suggests
the creation of a new, communalized
self, much wiser about its relation
to symbols.
is no happy ending, however. Repairing
There
the breach between
the symbolic order and the individual seems to be an endless task. The
at unpre
that makes
the Mariner
its medium
story-telling momentum
as the journey
are
dictable times is as disruptive
we
astonished
itself;
by
like the wedding-guest.
The
it, medusaed
too, though
repetitions,
shock: a rhythmic or temporal stutter,
cathartic, suggest an unresolved
they leave the storyteller
instance of hyperarousal.
demon
personal
make
it final.

in purgatory,

awaiting the next assault, the next


such repetitions Yeats said that a
Concerning
us
to the place of encounter?to
back
always brings

V
For a generation
looked at from
now, literature has been increasingly
a political angle.
are
in
the
to
their
redeem
Many
profession
desperate
to
make
more
that
the
more
of
is,
transitive,
drug,
literary object
study
connected
with what goes on in a blatantly political world. Trauma
studies provide a more natural transition
to a "real" world often
falsely
off
as
from
that
of
the
if the one were activist and
split
university,

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544

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

and detached. There is an opening


engaged and the other self-absorbed
that leads from trauma studies to public, especially mental health issues,
an
opening with ethical, cultural, and religious
implications.18
this newest perspec
The result is not moral criticism exactly, because
a definitive
or evaluation
of the
tive does not attempt
judgment
at
the
level
of
individual work. The change introduced
operates
theory,
in the service of insights
and of exegesis
an unconscious
focus is on disclosing

The
about human functioning.
or
knowledge?a
not-knowing
if you wish?combining
literary way of knowing,
insight and
potentially
an
earnest
and
transitional
adult
of
blindness,
(or
management
play
to sound as well as sense. Emphasis
objects19), and linking inspiration
use of language
than on an ideal
falls on the imaginative
rather
or
historical origin?
of
The
real?the
transparency
empirical
meaning.
cannot be known as such because
the
it presents
itself always within
or "field" of the traumatic.20
resonances
is a
character
film The War, whose main
Consider
John Avnet's
stress.
veteran
Vietnam
Having deserted
suffering from post-traumatic
he could not find or hold a job, and having spent
his family because
to
time in a mental
hospital, he returns home once more, determined
as
father and provider. The movie has him undergo
support his family
trauma of having
an encounter
which confronts him with the original
left his army buddy to die on the battlefield,
though after a heroic rescue
in
is the mines. He succeeds
attempt. This time the place of encounter
a fallen rock but is himself
him
from
his
partner
by
extricating
saving
cave-in. A final act comes after the
wounded
by a second
mortally
an
son undergoes
that
veteran's
death, when his young
experience
war
to
an initiation
self
and
both
his father's,
mirrors
equivalent
sacrifice.

the design of the story more obvious than


This bare summary makes
it is; but at some point
arise as to what kind of
the question must
I
art fosters. How are we to understand
the repetitions
consciousness
or are they
and
Are
have described?
incremental,
they intensifying
in this way a renewed
to soothe
meant
like rhythms do, preventing
traumatization?the

transmission

of

trauma

from

author

to

movie-goer?

The movie
suggests, by its double plot, that trauma is an inevitable
the traumatic
But it is careful in merging
part of life, of growing-up.
events with a local setting (Juliette, a dirt-poor Mississippi
farming area,
than
so that we can regard
rather
the film as realistic
in 1970),
It heightens
allegorical.
and its symbolic pattern
side of disclosure.
is a well-known
There
course,

by symbolic means,
knowledge
are kept in a tension that is not

its realism
entirely on the
but

of
saying: It is art when it hides the art. Critics,
the art once more; but if
in their role as official readers, uncover

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for the purpose of exposure, or in a purely demystifying way,


too conscious
of the design?of
somewhere?and
plotting,
to psychic develop
the balance of knowing and not knowing, necessary
such heavy concepts as providence
is disturbed. Today, moreover,
ment,
this is done
we become

or fate have lost their artistic as well as occult potential,


and yield to
more
Even
secular ideas of traumatic stress and repetition-compulsion.
so
remain
these concepts,
that
however,
enigmatic
enough,
insight,
can still be made
to
the viewer's spectatorial
consciousness,
particularly
sense its limit. Avnet's film suggests that we mature,
like the children
or
in it, by a mystical
in
quasi-physiological
participation
portrayed
parental

The
author,

experience.

I favor

formulation

action

audience?the

is that at all levels?plot,


is "daemonic"

actors,

in Yeats's

sense

characters,
(see

above,

Even within the local


p. 543), rather than "conscious" or "unconscious."
detail that serves to characterize Juliette
(an "unincorporated"
town), we
events such as tree house, water tower (inverse images
find place-bound
of each

that bring
other), firestorm,
(also inverse images)
whirlpool
two
main
father and son, back for a final
each of the
characters,
encounter.
and
artistic
kinds of knowledge
to
Traumatic
conspire
own mode
their
of
recognition.
produce

VI
have sensed my
of how
literary turn, as the question
extreme
moves
is
of
from
experiences
possible
knowledge
epistemologi
cal baffles to an underconsciousness
deeply involved in story, speech act,
and symbolic process. This shift does not leave the cognitive behind but
to it. It leads to an unsentimental
relation
puts us in a different
of
the
human
and a view of art as at once
condition,
acknowledgment
You may

The force of that acknowledgment


tem
testimony and representation.
our
an
to
find
ultimate
to
for
that
trauma,
is,
pers
tendency
explanation
or metapsychological
"see through" to its biological
base. Indeed,
this
temptation

to

explain,

even

to

demystify,

as

it becomes

"fever,"

may

a compulsive,
itself be an effect of traumatic dissociation,
belated effort
to master
the split between
and knowledge
in
experience
by asserting
cause (see-able) and a trauma
of a phenomenal
theory the convergence
(not see-able, or else "piercing" the eyes).21
The predicament
is how to acknowledge
the passionate,
suffering,
side of human nature without
affectional
sympathy turning into over
Too often
identification.
defends
itself against
the very
scholarship
emotion being analyzed by seeking a definitive recognition
of it in terms
trauma or "first encounter"?even
of childhood
when that "encounter"

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is "missing," in the sense that it has displaced


itself from memory
and
the subject of an imaginary reconstruction.22
becomes,
therefore,
This does not deny the history of the individual or the need for social
In fact, Hegel's
"the (historical)
real is the rational" seems
remediation.
now like a rationalization
of "the real is the traumatic."23 Trauma study's
radical aspect comes to the f?re less in its emphasis on acts of violence
to "familiar"
like war and genocide
it draws attention
than when
violence
and children. Above all,
such as rape, and the abuse of women
it does not neglect
the explosive nature of emotion
and daily hurt.
For

it is clear

that accidents
are

or

events?uncover,

drawn

too?that
an

into,

is, apparently
of

atmosphere

simple,
trauma.

daily

I doubt

this "assault" of ordinary


fiction would be possible without
in gothic stories to
look
of
ancestral
from
the
strange
things:
portraits
encounters
inMann's Death in Venice, the crazyquilt of Pynchon's
hermetic
or rebellion
of sense-percepts
in
The Crying of Lot 49, the disintegration
or
but
the
Malte
Laurids
innocent
Rilke 's Notebooks
(for
of
Brigge,
that modern

in the mystery
novel or any "realistic"
accidents
detective)
revealing
of
fiction.24
piece
there is
collude. Where
In literature especially, shock and dreaminess
that the "mother is
observation
dream there is (was) trauma. Winnicott's
that within
the
is fundamental
here: he means
always traumatizing"'
of a nurturing presence,
child's framework of basic trust, or idealization
there are infinite

to be hurt, and the greater the idealization


the
the
(in
psychoanalytic
greater the vulnerability.25 Since being integrated
it cannot totally defend against this
sense) remains a type of idealization,
as deep as childhood.
daily hurt, which can go very deep,
Lacan,

too,

chances

stresses

an

streak

unlucky

this accidental
vented: he characterizes
never seem prepared
for what befalls;
untimely,

premature.

Life

seems

always

that

cannot

be

entirely

pre

as a malencontre. We
traumatizing
it strikes the child in the adult as
to be

a matter

of

catching

up,

life or

with
(through mourning)
unconsciously?whether
resemble
in
the
death.
therefore, may
(or reas
present,
Something
as
were
channels
if
there
semble)
along which
something
forgotten,
source.
a
This
is
returns
its
where
like
hides
flood
that
uncanny
memory
or correspondence
felt.26
themselves
make
of repetition
sensations
lesson must be drawn about the
From what I have said, a cautionary
or
There
to
recovered
of trauma
relation
is, at
dream-knowledge.
often

with

a temptation
to politicize
the fact of trauma and to broaden,
present,
of
But any equation
even universalize,
of victimhood.
the perspective
an
care:
life itself is
human
and trauma must be pursued with
biography
and
to the "traumatizing" Winnicott
has described,
endless adaptation
which persists from birth to death.27

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STUDIES

VII
or practical
is the relevance
of trauma theory for reading,
What
is known: in literature, as in life, the simplest event
criticism? This much
can resonate
be invested with aura, and tend toward the
mysteriously,
in
The
this sense,
is not a denial
of literal or
symbolic.
symbolic,
but its uncanny
referential
intensification.
The reason for this convert
ibility of literal and symbolic is the "traumatizing"
already mentioned,
which constantly
shatters basic trust yet always, in a symbolic mode, picks
does contribute
up the pieces.28 The theory, moreover,
very specifically
to an analysis of human time, clarifying
structure as a
its repetitious
mode

of negative
that alternates
with highly
narratability
charged
such as Wordsworth's
"spots of time." These may return as
flashbacks, but are also, at least inWordsworth's
(and later
description
in Proust's),
revivifying beacons from a period of greater intensity, which

moments,

had seemed
lost.
In short, we gain a clearer view of the relation of literature to mental
in several key areas, including
reference,
functioning
subjectivity, and
narration.
I would have said "disturbed mental
but that
functioning"
would give rise to a misunderstanding.
For the disturbance
in question
is not an unfortunate
from normalcy,
departure
though itmay involve
anguish and ask for relief; it is, rather, a very human
though compulsive
or reduced
that cannot be methodized
doubt, an obstinate questioning
to an affirmative structure like the Cartesian
Instead,
cogito.
spurred by a
residual idealism, it grapples, again and again, with issues of reality, bodily
a
(sometimes
integrity, and identity. It is a doubt
ecstasy) which
brooding
afflicts reference
(is this the real or at least a sign of the real?),
or
it), and memory
(saying "I" and the possibility of meaning
subjectivity
in
control
of
the
some
of
one's
life
than
of
rather
story (being
part
"plot"
other,

but

unknown

fatal,

narrative.)29

I have mentioned
these factors because
they play a specific role in the
of
or
literature.
What
do poems
imaginative
study
reality-reference
novels have; who
is the "I" that tells the story or claims authorial
so fantastic a tale or mode
and why should we believe
of
privilege;
one
even
it
when
criteria
of
is
marked
that,
realism,
telling,
respects
by
coincidences

and

just-under-the-surface

fabulous

structure?which

precisely what appeals?


Not
that trauma theory,

is

at least when
it works within
the orbit of
answers. But instead of
literary studies, has definitive
seeking premature
it stays longer in the negative
and allows disturbances
of
knowledge,
and mind
the quality of time we give to literature. The
language
or more
of reference,
our ability to constitute
questioning
positively
of a literary kind (with a symbolic or
dimen
referentiality
polys?mie

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of dream or trauma; negative narratibility


the nearness
sion), indicates
a temporal
structure
to implode
defines
that tends to collapse,
into a
so
a
is
to
traumatic
that
the
fable
reduced
core,
charged
repetition
not authentically
"in time";30 and the subjection
of the
compulsion
an
or
not
when
it
is
erotic
subject,
given
exclusively
political
explana
tion, evokes what Lacan defines as the "fading" of the I before the Other.
This fading always indicates a disturbance
vis-?-vis the symbolic order.31

VIII
In one

area

the yield for literary theory is already substantial.


not only favors a progressive
bias?which
view of
epistemological
sees
but
and the effects of knowledge,
the complex
structure
knowledge
of our coming-to-know
mainly as the clearing away of subjectivity?this
bias is shown to have distorted
the reader/text
relationship. We habitu
as a binary process, one that takes place
ally view literary interpretation
texts and subject-like
readers. We
between
try to call this
object-like
a
or
a
conventional
that
claim, using
process
prosopopeia,
dialogue,
texts "speak" to us. But the animating metaphor
in this is all too obvious.
It betrays the fact that while we feel that books are alive, we cannot find
a way to
a good model,
picture that. The more we try to animate books,
are made
to the dead?who
to
their
resemblance
the more
reveal
they
address us in epitaphs or whom we address in thought or dream. Every
time we read we are in danger of waking
the dead, whose return can be
as
as
in
It
well
is,
any case, always the reader who is
ghoulish
comforting.
alive and the book that is dead, and must be resurrected
by the reader.
basic

The

The

reader's

forceful

exegesis,

however,

does

not

remain

at

the

conver

a text which must


itself be revived at a later
level but becomes
to maintain
is
unable
itself as oral
The
conversation
point.
exegetical
a literary mode
of transmission.
It finds a different,
tradition.
Ambitious
thinkers, of course, not only want their work to stay alive
of their teachings. This is the
but wish to supervise the future meaning
most obvious reason for Plato's devaluation
of writing,
of the medium
which
takes authority away from the author and places it in unknown
tradition or school. At worst, of
best in those of a particular
hands?at
saw happening,
course, in the hands of the State: this is what Nietzsche
as
as
he could against that. Nietzsche's
and he fought
critique
vigorously
freedom depicts a perversion
of the university and its claim of academic
of the ear through the lecture system: "One speaking mouth, with many
ears, and half as many writing hands?there
you have, to all appear
there you have the University
ances, the external academic
apparatus;
at a
in
this machine
action." Behind
culture machine
[Bildungsmaschine]
sational

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549

distance"
stands the State: Derrida points out that
"careful, calculated
this picture of an educational
State Apparatus,
"which dictates to you the
ear
that
and
travels
the length of the cord
your
passes
very thing
through
all the way down to your stenography"
tends to conflate umbilical
and
ear. Uncannily
"an umbilical
cord . .. create [s] this cold monster
that is
a dead father or the State."32
on Nietzsche
and Derrida, but also on insights culled from
Leaning
such different writers as Bataille, Bourdieu,
Lacan, and Levinas, the new
to
tries
break
ethical
down
the
tyranny of the
theory
reproductive
a
educational
its
creation
of
that
fosters
die mere
system,
pseudo-ear
illusion of democracy
and objectivity.33 It acknowledges
the problem
of
an
as
to
to
the
books,
institution,
writing
transferring
pedagogical
vitality
of the teaching relation and orally transmitted knowledge.
Texts are not
their "moment"
includes
process;
simply the objects of a cognitive
as well as
is here understood
in a broad
teaching
teachings.34 Teaching
sense as a performative
as
to change
that
wishes
activity,
interpretation
the person, and so a world. The reader, similarly, is not simply a subject
who reads, but a teacher or a student; something
of both, perhaps.
If we
on
the
interactive
relation
of
teacher
student
and
that
of
superimpose
reader and text, literary study loses some of the chill which cognitive or
constative
theories have cast on it, and reading is restored as ethical (or
the readings are addressed, and
Ethical, because
metaepistemological).
an
not only formally
or implicit dedication,
or an
(through
explicit
as
a
to
of
literature
and
the
other
but
letters)
analogy
responsive,
even
a criticism that "reads
vulnerable,
unpredictable
being. Through
the wound" and does not deny it (Paul Celan 'sphrase is wundgelesenes),
the original
addresses
itself as a
text, itself vulnerable,
us, reveals
a
or
one
in
collective
of
which
is
life,
life-in-death,
participant
sign
tradition or intertextuality.35

IX
some questions
about this revival of a notion of paidea, which
and
often
focuses on, women's
But it does
today includes,
experience.
invite us to rethink our relation to literature without
it in
superseding
to social justice. One reservation
the fervor of our commitment
I have is
that what is called the ethical may turn out to be, once again, a displaced
trauma" aspect is not all that far
intensity. The "memento
evangelical
from a "memento mori." Is this conception
of criticism as a secondary
a religious
one
that has renounced
the
testifying
phenomenon,
though
a
claim
of
Does
it
seek
of modern,
hermeneutics
totality
religion?
writes explicitly that "hermeneutics
fragmented being? Susan Handelman
I have

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cannot be separated and ... are brought


together under
of the pedagogical."36
can
therefore
remains about how this ethical perspective
differentiate
itself from advocacy teaching: from the strong personalism
as a whole,
that has invaded
the classroom
and the profession
and
as
so
not
or
in
succeeds
much
evidence
which,
politics,
by astringent
as by scandal,
humane
conversation
and
sheer
force
of
publicity,
display
in a "society of the spectacle." I certainly don't mean
that Cathy Caruth,
or Susan Handelman,
or Barbara Johnson,
or Jill Robbins,
or Avital
or
in
the
Shoshanna
Ronell,
Cynthia Chase?or,
previous
generation,
that path. In fact, they
Felman, Jacqueline
Rose, and Julia Kristeva?take
are exemplary
in not setting up a counterideal
to "mastery," or a
feminist reversal of that hierarchical
and complacent mode
of
mocking
to spell out how their "recuperation
of
teaching. But it will be necessary
can avoid politicization
or cultic personalism.
the Pedagogical
Moment"
A step toward that comes when we remind ourselves
that, so far, the
moment
discourses
of the pedagogical
by this reintroduction
explored
are psychoanalysis
as
and midrash,
(or medicalized
speech generally)
as
a
as
enters
well
literary criticism. Feminism
critique of both psycho
It exposes
in analyst, critic, and artist a
analytic and literary discourse.
issues. We confront potentially
distortion
of gender
traumatic questions
constructs.37
bearing on sexual identity and the tyranny of psychosocial
feminism
breaches
the
barrier
between
autobio
Getting
personal,
concerns.
and
institutional
reflection
graphical
and what
moment,"
My remarks are limited here to "the pedagogical
and homiletics
the category
A question

can be

it to alter

the reader/text
Reception
relationship.
or
not it is prompted
(as in Norman
theory,
David Bleich, Jane Tompkins)
is intensely
Holland,
by psychoanalysis,
a way of
It
offers
the
student's
pedagogic.
slowing reading by allowing
to
and
the
and
teacher's
emerge,
positions
subduing
opinions, prejudices,
on
own rage for order. The potential
of
midrash
literary criticism
impact
case.
Midrash
flourished
in a legal
is a more
originally
complex
so
context.
the
of this
it
Yet
is
freedom
and
authoritarian,
very
religious,
to aWriting
the creative response
which appeals,
form of commentary
that

learned from
for example,

remains,

all

the

whether

same,

sacred

and

unalterable.

There

is, very

often,

a challenging
its recupera
of the symbolic order and, simultaneously,
can be so daring because of
tion. I suspect that the response of midrash
is challenged;
the relation between
orality and aurality. The pseudo-ear
we find ourselves
in a commentary
that restores an elided and intricate
a
often discover or reconstruct
type of hearing. Rabbinic
interpreters
new
oto
that yield
virtual text, words within words
meaning
through
matic

("eary") punning.
text lodge:
in fact, does
in the text or in
the received
Where,
It is hardly satisfactory to resolve the issue by saying the text is
ourselves?

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STUDIES

soon get lost again


is in us. We
its meaning
in
a traumatic
to admit
or
It
is
better
that
niceties.
epistemological
as it does midrash
or
element may enter secular exegesis,
enthusiastic
to Scripture. We sense it in such comments
as
relation
the religious
not
to
maieutics
is
reducible
Socratic
Levinas's
[the
method];
"Teaching
it comes from the exterior and brings me more
than I can contain,"38
and Norman O. Brown's "The book sets the reader on fire."39 Emerson's
our own
that in reading
others we recognize
humanistic
dictum,
in

the

text but

this insight.
"alienated majesty," also provides
is a remarkable
blend of ecstatic and maieutic
Rabbinic midrash
more
all
and
the
after
the hurban (the destruction
After
Sinai,
practices.
to
the
the community
of the Second Temple,
Jewish diaspora),
leading
it once and for all, so that this law is
has received the law, that is, accepted
to interpret and
The obligation
not, or is no longer, heteronomous.
even
transmit it rests now on the teachers of the community,
though the
of study evolve which are, at once,
of God remains. Methods
otherness
and prayer
(constative)
commentary
(performative).
They encourage
intense
and
intellectual
but do not
communal
exploration
inquiry
text is now
The
exclude
the possibility of inspired or mystical
readings.
more
in the text than ever, rather than in God, yet it is "revealed"
through Scripture's
through both legal and freer kinds of midrash,
active "reception"?even
rabbinic interpreters.40
consumption?by
like this reception
and
Something
theory, at once
introspective
the
also
motivates
secular
of
enthusiastic,
literary criticism,
practice
is assumed
What
without
being acknowledged.
by the theory is that
that the
goes hand in hand with teaching and transmission,
reception
are
a
materials
and that there will be
transfer
being studied
contagious,
ence between
teacher and student.
of textual
(A wonderful
example
a
of the way literature works, with or without
contagiousness?typical
when

teacher?comes

Lacan,

on

commenting

the

dream

recorded

by

address to the father, "Don't you see I


Freud, characterizes
am burning?"
as a "firebrand.") We have an
to
of course,
obligation,
the child's

analyze

transferential

that

and

process,

to

recognize

the

"subject

posi

a limiting fact. But the


is that literary studies, in
hope
ancestral
and
modes,
contemplating
spurned
thinking back through
more
trauma theory to religious experience,
become
might
imaginative
tion" as, also,

rather

than

more

pious.

to literary studies
My own interest in the relevance of psychoanalysis
has not centered on trauma. The poets were there before, as Freud once
so I prefer to talk of "psychoaesthetics"
and "representation
declared,

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But I share with


trauma studies a concern
for the
compulsion."41
or intermittences
in speech
absences
of
conscious
in
(or
knowledge
or
the
muteness
for
residual
of
of
"flowers
obliquity
speech);
speech"
and other euphemic modes;
for the uncanny
role of accidents;
for the
of
the
for
the
connection
of
voice
with
subject;
"ghosting"
identity (the
and specular names);
for interpreta
"appeal" in cryptonymy, punning
act that
tion as a feast not a fast; and for literature as a testimonial
transmits knowledge
in a form that is not scientific
and does not
a
or analytic
were
coincide with either
totally realistic (as if that
possible)
form of representation.42
can it
How does
traumatic knowledge
become
transmissible?how
extend into personal
and cultural memory? Though Wordsworth
evokes
the role of "mute, insensate
rather
things" in the growth of the mind,
of speech, he records early "spots of time" which
than a psychogenesis
In Wordsworths Poetry I
the support of "far other" experience.
become
trauma with such eidetic and referential
associated
flashbacks. A "spot
fortified
for
of individuation
the
the
that
mystery
youngster
syndrome"
even the mature poet's mind, haunting
marked
it with particular objects
or places ("And there's a tree, of many one") .43These places, mythic and
"Where
indeed, Wordsworth's
realistic, never lose their aura entirely;
sites of "first
shall I seek the origin?" inspires him to evoke quasi-sacred
contacts
his
and
between
encounter,"
earth, as if
binding
imagination
earth had omphaloi, specific localities that could restore poetic strength
and lead to a future as strong as the past. The forming and deforming
could be creative symptoms of trauma linked to
power of such fixations
or
a
compulsive desire for "the real."44 They are to nature
reality-hunger,
to Aristotle.
what scenes of pathos are to tragedy, according
same
like this foster a nonreductive
Considerations
psychology. At the
to move
to the present. There
is
from Wordsworth
time, it is possible
our
sense
trauma
about
studies,
very contemporary
reflecting
something
storm that may
ever nearer,
like a storm?a
is coming
that violence
core
our
of
The
the
moved
into
have
reality of violence,
being.
already
not simply as external
fate, but intrinsic to the psychological
develop
ment of the human
its institutions
(the Law
species, and contaminating
in the
Freud
not
is
"the
fateful
excluded)
system
question"
posed by
must
we
to
its
add
of
and
Discontents.
Civilization
Today
closing pages
technical
of the fact of violence
Freud's insight an enlargement
through
resources
media
that relay powerfully both fiction and news. Audiovisual
to
must
no
a
is
but
mind
allowed
that
continually
pressure
longer
"sleep"
as a violence
from
react. Wallace
Stevens already defined
imagination
to a violence
be no
there
will
Soon
from
without.
within
responding
versions of pastoral; Wordsworth's
may have been the last viable one, at
The inter
and urbanization.
industrialization
the threshold of modern

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ON

TRAUMATIC

AND

KNOWLEDGE

LITERARY

553

STUDIES

est in trauma, moreover,


goes together with an interest in testimony as a
the courage
and patience
back with
of
indeed
that
presses
genre
memory.

so
that Lacan 's famous
"return to Freud" makes
It is also relevant
the first
of chapter
7 of The Interpretation of Dreams, where
much
of a metapsychology
adumbrations
appear. For that chapter anticipates
to
that there is an organic tendency to keep sleeping,
Freud's hypothesis
not wake into full consciousness,
and that thismay be the real explana
the wish that underlies
tion of dreams,
every other wish. The organism
in his
itself seeks a return to its preconscious
state; or, as Freud declared
most famous aphorism,
"The aim of life is death." Under
those condi
in the social and historical
tions, testimony
sphere, like objectivity and
can
in
to modify
the
be
said
the death-drive
sciences,
analytic precision
an
cause out of
not
from
mental
It
makes
ethical
ceasing
fight.
by
even
to
the
and
carries
it
of
point
reality-denial
by clearly
vigilance,
all around.
yet not giving in to, the death-manifestations
witnessing,
Strengthening
the restorative
dreams,

Epilogue:

above

''Father,

this denial, and paradoxically


from within
to mental
of dreams
relation
health,
by the antiselfconscious

all, produced

don't

you

see

sleep itself, is
the articulate
labors of art.

. . .V

on the dream of the


that
Commenting
burning child, Freud sunnised
the words "Father, don't you see I am burning?" were actually uttered in
some form during the child's illness, which may have been
accompanied
Freud adduces here a general principle
of
by a high fever. Though
or
the
(that dreams
residue,
dream-interpretation
incorporate
day's
actual words and perceptions),
his aim is to show that this dream is not
on the question
hard to interpret, so that he can concentrate
of how to
a
to
event
it.
But
means
to trace
like
explain
psychical
explain
dreaming
it back in the psychical chain to a determining
cause; and, unable to do
to speculate on what is later called
this, Freud begins
metapsychology,
which takes us back to the beginnings
of conscious
life, to the "waking"
of matter
into memory.
(I have often thought that the importance
given
to imagining
this moment
is essentially
erotic, as in the Pygmalion
the body itself, never animated
story?the
thought of waking
enough,
into

passionate

response.)

to keep dreaming within the


Lacan then intervenes
psychical chain of
events
out
of
He does so by a self
(and
biology or metapsychology).
turn that is also a metaphorical
turn: the "fever," he suggests,
referential
is also that of Freud, namely, his ardent wish to find a "real," a "first
encounter."
This "fever" is itself a psychic fact, and bears not
just on

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554

NEW

LITERARY

HISTORY

the received
but on the institution,
theory of
as
see
to
has
the
failed
real
which
always manqu?, or as an
psychoanalysis
at
same
of
desire.
the
understands
that
Lacan,
time,
object
impossible

Freud

the

the

pathos

individual

of

"Father,

don't

you

see

..."

comes

not

only

from

parent's

that turns fever


by a metaphor
projected
self-reproach?heightened
the flame is literal?but
also from the invoca
into flame even before
in which
tional force of the child's direct address against a background
as
one
too
to
return
is
Lacan
is
whose
Freud
addressed,
everyone
asleep.45
means
a return to Freudian
texts: die recovery of a "missed encounter"
with
is awakened
them.46 A watcher
tomb, Lacan
by Freud's
by the
into a psychoanalytic
"firebrand" phrase and inserts himself
sequence?
the child the father of the father.47
into a genealogy which makes
The notion of "first encounter,"
though it often structures biography
has something
dreamlike
about it, and belongs
and autobiography,48
to see
more
to the fantasmic
"real." So it is possible
than to a localizable
of Keats as seeking that "fantasmic real" through un
to
attracted
imagination,
ind?finiment jamais atteint r?veil49 The poet's
seeks to advance beyond pastoral
what he himself
calls "the extreme,"
modes:
beyond "Flora and Old Pan," the language of myth, the language
of flowers. Keats shared Freud's Enlightenment
ethos, and cultivated a
to
to
itself in the
and
"meet"
unafraid
consciousness
express
reality
terms. Must poetry, then, traditionally associated with "sleep"?
directest
as dream
element often formally expressed
that is, with an unconscious
as
childish?
vision?be
given up
the entire

career

of dreams. Keats is
than Freud gives up the interpretation
No more
because
of
not deceived
dawn
absolute
Enlightenment,
by the false
so
that
his own
of
the
remain
and Shakespeare
real,
Dante, Milton,
part
name
in
cannot
the
dismiss
them
by their strength,
genius, embarrassed
two
or
In
of
of reality
the Hyperion project, consisting
scientific progress.
more
intrudes
in
than
Lacan,
dramatically
long epic fragments, Keats,
a
creates
out
the
a
of
he
scene,
gods
person upon
twilight
genealogical
must
of an older, mythic poetry. The poet, in this interregnum moment,
an
senses.
act
It
is
of
new
old
his
the
the
bear
upon
by bearing
a
to
not
of
which
prior
body
only
responds
imaginative
re-generation
or unfulfilled
but also to a missing
poetry and its burden of greatness,
a radical expansion
of the
is basically feminine,
element. That element
of
tradition
in
the
remains
who
great
epic verse.
marginal
muse-figure
as a new
as
a
new
much
not
of
envision
Keats does
gods
generation
a
a
new
the birth of
psychic awakening
psyche:
poetry. More precisely,
not involving gods or transformation
that
not accompanied
trauma,
is,
by
is but
in alio genere. Yet The Fall ofHyperion, however powerfully
imagined,
in
all
the
remains
a negative
and
and nightmarish
progress,
entangled
of
rhetorical
trauma.50
symptoms

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ON

TRAUMATIC

LITERARY

AND

KNOWLEDGE

STUDIES

555

to unwounded
to Psyche"
that comes closest
yet
or
to Keats himself.51
to
whether
"awakened eyes,"
Psyche
they belong
on that point: "Surely I dreamt today, or
The poem is richly ambiguous
see
of
did I
/ The winged Psyche with awaken'd eyes?" If this moment
the awakened
describes
with sexual overtones,
eyes of
enlightenment,
must
for we
be
those
of
the
redeemed
it
Psyche;
("winged")
Psyche,
that the original moment
of discovery was fatal.
know from the myth
is seen (or dreamt) by the poet is therefore a wishful repetition?
What
not Lacan 's
a "repetition
in a finer tone," as Keats once called it?and
It is the

"the

first

"Ode

the

encounter,

real."

wrote
to
in a letter, "may be compared
Imagination,"
of Adam
dream: he awoke and found it truth."52 Keats's mention
alludes to the eighth book of Paradise Lost, to a scene that skirts yet averts
an
loss. In it Milton
traumatic
stages his version of a first encounter,
a
a
Adam
is
God
that
already
gives
glimpse
repetition.
original awakening
then has him "wake / To find her." The caesura's
of Eve in a dream,
also insinuates a "wake / To
expectancy,
slight suspension, mimicking
is the sinister alternative depicted
in Keats's ballad "La
loseher"?which
even in this
Belle Dame sans Merci." Loss casts its shadow on presence,
Keats

"The

Adam's

first

whose

encounter,

preparing

stress

pre-traumatic

shows

Yale
bibliographical
Some
Standard
XXIII;
Jacques

as

Milton

teacher

for trials to come.53

the imagination

University

note

texts on trauma are: Sigmund


Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle,
his People, and theMonotheist
Edition
Standard
XVIII; Moses,
Religion,
Freud and Josef Breuer,
Standard
Edition
II. Also:
Studies in Hysteria,
Sigmund
"Tuch? et Automaton,"
I^e S?minaire, Livre XI, ed. Jacques-Alain
Miller
Lacan,
"Fantasme originaire,
fantasme
1973), pp. 53-62; Jean Laplanche
andj. B. Pontalis,
of

the basic

Edition

(Paris,
du fantasme,"
des origines,
origine
"Notes on the Phantom:
Abraham,
Nicholas
Critical Inquiry,
13
Rand,
Experience
Winnicott

19 (1964),
Nicolas
1833-68;
Temps modernes,
to Freud's
tr.
Complement
Metapsychology,"
Robert
"Survivor
(Winter
1987),
287-92;
J. lifton,
in Tfie Broken Connection
1980). For
(New York,
Syndrome,"

and Traumatic
on

complexities
"Extimit?,"

see

Trauma,
in Lacan's

the

concept
11 (1988),

Les
A

sources
of

cited

otherness

in nn.
are

24

and

27 below.

Some

of

the

rehearsed

Miller,
by Jacques-Alain
is Shoshana
of Lacan
exposition

Prose Studies,
121-30. The clearest
in Contemporary
Culture
of Insight: Psychoanalysis
Jacques Lacan and the Adventure
and
Felman
the
of
cultural
Mass.,
1987).
(Cambridge,
develops
implications
pedagogical
Lacan without,
into the theory of trauma. Michael
in Reading
however,
venturing
Payne,
Felman,

of Lacan's
has a fine and complex
1993), which
Theory (Oxford,
exposition
use of
For the concept
values Lacan's
of catastrophe-creation
literary sources.
to gnosticism,
see Harold
The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry
Bloom,

Ecrits, fully
and its link
(New York,

1973).
For

recent

developments

in other

areas,

including

literary

studies:

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Jacqueline

Rose,

556

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

come from?" and "An Interview with


"Where does the Misery
Rose"
(conducted
Jacqueline
in Why
Politics and the Return to
Payne and Maire Jaanus)',
by Michael
War??Psychoanalysis,
Melanie
Klein
Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative
and
(Oxford,
1993); Cathy Caruth,
Trauma:
in Memory,
ed. Cathy
Caruth
(Baltimore,
History
forthcoming);
Explorations
and Abortion,"
in A World
1995); Barbara Johnson,
Animation,
"Apostrophe,
Between the Sign and the Gaze (Ithaca,
(Baltimore,
1987); and Herman
Rapaport,
on shock as well as on the relation of
comments
to narration
1994). Significant
experience
are found
in several major
"The Story-Teller"
and
essays by Walter
Benjamin,
including
(Baltimore,

ofDifference

"On several
For
and

in Baudelaire."

Themes

the ethical

the Criticism

and

issues: Susan Handelman,


"The 'Torah' of Criticism
pedagogical
of Torah:
the Pedagogical
Moment,"
Recuperating
Journal
of Religion, 74
Shoshana
"Education
and Crisis,"
in Trauma: Explorations
in
Felman,

(1994),
356-71;
and Murder
in Levinas's
"Visage, Figure: Speech
Memory; Jill Robbins,
Totality and Infin
in Critical Encounters:
in Deconstructive
ed. Cathy
Reference and Responsibility
ity?
Writing,
Caruth
and Deborah
Esch
ed.
(New Brunswick,
1995); The Pedagogical
N.J.,
Imperative,
Barbara
(New Haven,
1982); Avital
Ronell,
Johnson
King:
"Video/Television/Rodney
Twelve
Studies,

Steps
4, no.

beyond
2 (1992),

in differences: A Journal
Principal?
of Feminist Cultural
des Pr?s, The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in theDeath
1-15; Terrence

The Pleasure

1976).
Camps (New York,
on "the obligation
In the legal
of conversation"
is Jay Katz,
important
sphere,
especially
The Silent World of Doctor and Patient
the importance
of introducing
(New York,
1984). On
see Patricia Williams,
stories into legal proceedings,
The Alchemy of Race and Rights
personal
of the "Law and Literature"
movement
Mass.,
1991) and the summary
(Cambridge,
by
Richard Weisberg,
in Postmodern Legal Movements:
Law and Jurisprudence
at Century s End, ed.
and thorough
discussion
of the
(New York,
1995). See also, for its humane
Gary Minda
in psychotherapy,
role of language
Haven,
(New
Stanley Leavy, The Psychoanalytic
Dialogue
as well as limits of medicalized
discourse,
1980); and for the necessity
Kathryn Montgom
Doctors* Stories: The Narrative
Structure ofMedical Knowledge
(Princeton,
ery Hunter,
of "doctor
"Stories and Theories,"
ch.
For the notion
Coles,
stories," cf. Robert
Call of Stories: Teaching and theMoral Imagination
(Boston,
1989), esp. pp. 28-30.

1991).
1 in The

of Georges
consult Denis Hollier,
Bataille,
Against Architecture: The
importance
tr. Betsy Wing
Mass.,
1989), and on "theories" of the
of George Bataille,
(Cambridge,
as
on
Fred Botting,
"Whither Theory,"
Oxford
they impinge
literary criticism,
see in addition
to The Space of Literature,
tr.
15
For Blanchot,
Review,
(1993), 201-22.
Literary
Ann Smock
version
1982; original French
1955), and The Gaze of Orpheus
(Lincoln, Nebr.,
tr. Lydia Davis
"A
and Other Literary Essays, ed. P. Adams
N.Y.,
1981),
Sitney,
(Barrytown,
tr. Ann Smock
in The Writing
Primal Scene?"
(Lincoln, Nebr.,
1986; original
of theDisaster,
Primal Scene"
"Blanchot's
of
French
version
One
1980), and Kevin Hart,
(unpublished).
For

the

Writings
Other,

of trauma
the unrecognized
pioneers
Oliver
Brown, who offers an eloquent
Apocalypse?And/Or?Metamorphosis
of
A sensitive
application

is Norman
("To be is to be vulnerable")
in
in
of
Bataille
1990," in
appreciation
"Dionysus
1991).
(Berkeley,
trauma theory to literary history
in Cynthia
is found
Chase,

of Personal
and considerations
Examples
a
the
Toward
Familiar:
Atkins,
Douglas
Estranging
it Out: 23 Women Writers, Artists,
Critical Writing
Revitalized
1992); Working
(Athens, Ga.,
and Pamela Daniels
Scientists, and Scholars Talk about Their Lives and Work, ed. Sara Ruddick
and Other Autobiographical
Acts, ed.
(New York,
1977); Getting Personal: Feminist Occasions
"Introduction"

Criticism

are

to Romanticism

theory

found

in,

inter

(London,

1993).

alia,

The
"True Voices
and Real People:
(New York,
1991); Elspeth
Probyn,
Nancy K. Miller
in Relocating
in Cultural
Cultural Studies, ed.
of the Autobiographical
'Problem"
Studies,"
"The
and Ian Taylor
Valda Blundell,
Hartman,
(London,
1993); Geoffrey
John Shepherd,
"A
in
Fate
and
Anne
A
The
Ferald,
1975);
(Chicago,
of Reading
Interpreter:
Self-Analysis,"

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ON TRAUMATIC

Room
(1994),
On

KNOWLEDGE

of One's Own,
165-90.

Personal

AND

LITERARY

and

Criticism,

STUDIES

the Essay,"

557

Twentieth

Century

Literature,

40

et travail de la
consult
Yannis
"Positivisme
Thanassekos,
testimony,
historique
source
Les r?cits et les t?moignages
des survivants comme
Bulletin de
historique,"
sur histoire
laFondation Auschwitz,
et m?moire
"Actes I" of the "Colloque
International
des
et g?nocides
crimes
nazis"
from
(Brussels,
1993),
19-39; Geoffrey
Hartman,
"Learning
Survivors:
The
Yale Testimony
Holocaust
and Genocide
Studies
(Fall 1995);
Project,"

m?moire.

Shoshana

Felman

and History

and Dori

(New York,

Laub, Testimony: Crises ofWitnessing


and Lawrence
Langer, Holocaust

1991);

in Literature,
Testimonies:

Psychoanalysis
The Ruins
of

(Hew Haven,
1991).
Memory
to public
Of books
trauma
and essays that apply
I want
to
health matters,
theory
mention
Trauma and Recovery (New York,
from a
1992). Written
only Judith L. Herman's
it seeks to direct our attention?and
feminist perspective,
conscience?toward
consciously
the abuse

and

traumatization

veterans,

battered

of women,

of rape survivors and


by linking the experience
and political
"the survivors of vast concentra
prisoners,
tion camps
created
rule nations
and the survivors
of small, hidden
by tyrants who
concentration
This
last analogy
5).
camps created
by tyrants who rule their homes"
(p.
shocks and is pursued without
full knowledge
of the nature of the camps. While
(it seems)
is the product
the book
of a vast amount
of sensitively
clinical
its
depicted
experience,
cautious
careful
is drawn by Roberta
generalizations
require
scrutiny. A more
analogy
combat

women

"Embodied Memory,
and Telling:
Re
Transcendence,
Trauma,
Recounting
the Self," New Literary History,
26 (1995),
For the post-traumatic
169-97.
establishing
situation
of Holocaust
survivors, one can turn to Dori Laub's
essays in Testimony, and for
after to Nadine
that of the generation
the Unknown,"
International
Fresco,
"Remembering

Culbertson,

Review

11 (1984),

of Psycho-Analysis,

417-27.

NOTES
1 Adam

"The Experts,"
London Review of Books, 16 (22 December
1994), 25.
Phillips,
nearest
to Blake's depiction
trauma may be Julia
of aboriginal
analogue
visionary
Kristeva's
the mysterious
is, in
theory of abjection, even
though
primordial
separation
from a maternal
rather than a paternal
reacts to abjection
Kristeva,
entity. Blake's Urizen
an exclusionist
See Julia Kristeva, Powers of
by a pathological
boundary-setting,
ordering.
Horror: An Essay on Abjection, tr. Leon Roudiez
(New York, 1982). Lacan's more
complex
and death drive can at least be opposed to Blake's
loss, desire,
linking of "the real" with
of Creation,
loss, and pseudo-order.
equation
2

The

et sur un mode
est la
? s'interroger
s'attache,
"[Freud]
presque
angoiss?,
quelle
rencontre
le r?el, que nous pouvons
affirmer
derri?re
le fantasme."
Lacan's
premi?re,
treatment
of the dream
is found
in his "Tuche and Automaton,"
in The Four Fundamental
ed. Jacques-Alain
tr. Alan Sheridan
Miller,
(New York, 1978), pp.
Concepts of Psycho-Analysis,
53-64. Lacan
as
affirms
the "psychic reality" of the father's dream
to a missed
"homage
can only repeat itself
in an indefinite
never attained"
reality, which
indefinitely
awakening
atteint
Freud's
about
["en un ind?finiment
r?veil"] and so modifies
jamais
pessimism
the origin of the "psychical process"
of dreams.
"Rencontre
is, as often
finding
premi?re"
a
in Lacan,
scene concept
the primal
but also subsuming
phrase,
highly charged
evoking
Freud's
interest
in causal explanation,
in discovering
the primitive
that
("first") event
in matter.
consciousness
The Four Fundamental
(See Lacan,
triggered
psychic
Concepts of
too is a charged
"Fantasme"
or a
close
to phantom
word,
Psycho-Analysis,
pp. 29-30.)
3

to Lacan," writes Herman


or
"the very idea of
Rapaport,
adding
scene
haunts
is itself typical of an
[that which
originary
psychoanalysis]
desire." See his Between the Sign and the Gaze (Ithaca, 1994).
have
My comments

haunting

idea.

inventing

a new

impossible

"According

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558

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

in Unclaimed
"Traumatic
and helped
by Cathy Caruth's
Awakening,"
and History
(Baltimore,
Trauma, Narrative
forthcoming).
Trauma and Recovery (New York, 1992), p. 4.
L. Herman,
of sensory reality may also enter. See Oliver
construction
5 The neurological
Sacks, The
his Wife for a Hat, and other Clinical Tales (New York,
Man who Mistook
1985).
been

stimulated

Experience:
4 Judith

in Death
of the Burning
Ellie Ragland,
Child,"
"Lacan, the Death Drive, and the Dream
and Elisabeth
Bronfen
ed. Sarah W. Goodwin
and Representation,
1993), p. 97.
(Baltimore,
cette r?p?tition
dans
la schize m?me
de fonder
d'abord
7
"[I]l est n?cessaire
qui se
rencontre.
la dimension
la
schize
constitue
de
Cette
?
l'endroit
le
dans
sujet
produit
nous fait
et de l'exp?rience
de la d?couverte
analytique,
qui
appr?hender
caract?ristique
6

dans

le r?el,

son

incidence

translated
regard,"
Fundamental
Concepts

as

"The

"L'oeil et le
malvenu."
originellement
in Miller,
The Four
the Eye and the Gaze,"
some contempo
need hardly add?but
pp. 67-78.1
than Freud
does not deny, any more
this position

dialectique,
Split between

comme

of Psycho-Analysis,
make
it necessary?that
rary polemics
the facts of social reality: it begins with
does,
is the complex
which
disturbed,
mentally
engage.
8 On

or with
situation

is already
the person who
a psychoanalyst
must

not seem clear enough.


There
theory does
"discours de l'Autre," with the symbolic
order,
of a person
that is, with the otherness
"l'autre,"

trauma
this point,
however,
connects
with Lacan's
which

otherness
whose

recognition
culture.
different

more

the patient,
individual

akin

can blend
But

with

is an
and
or a

is something
associated
with traumatic
"experience"
is the
the path from it to ethical or realistic
recognition
to
devoted
such a path in his section of the Phenomenology
thinkers who follow
and in religious
but in Kierkegaard,

the otherness

to a tremendum, and
tries to establish
Hegel

difficulty.
the master-servant

relationship;
or mystical
is stressed. The
of the ethical
The Holy, a suspension
negation
as is the case in Holy Wars,
to distinguish
from the Unholy,
in short, may be difficult
Holy,
an evil
the Holocaust:
trauma
of our
historical
the gravest
affects
and which
time,
nationalism.
not in the name of evil but in the name of a purifying
undertaken
or in real life ever cut
I have seen in photographs
Susan Sontag:
9 For example,
"Nothing
to me to divide my life
seems
it
me as sharply, deeply,
Indeed,
instantaneously.
plausible
to
I saw those photographs
into two parts, before
(I was twelve) and after." She is referring
Rudolf

Otto's

Holocaust
"cutting"

the
On Photography
[New York, 1977], p. 20.) On
(Susan Sontag,
ch. 5 in Saving the Text: Literature / Derrida /
"Words and Wounds,"
1981), pp. 118-57.
in a Prospect
of
of little T.C.
in "The Picture
that Andrew
Marvell,

photographs.
see my
word,

(Baltimore,
Philosophy
10
It is interesting
Flowers"
evokes,
apotropaically,
of "the
11 On
the relation

the killing effect of premature


(sexual)
experience.
see Geoffrey
H.
to symbolic
process,
tyranny of sight"
on "Val?ry" (pp. 97
the chapters
Vision (New Haven,
The Unmediated
1954),
Hartman,
in
also my
on
"Pure Representation"
and
1971,"
"Retrospect
124),
(pp. 127-55);
xviiff. For a systematic
treatment,
ed.
2nd
Wordsworth's
Haven,
1971),
(New
pp.
Poetry,
see the post
to verbal figuration,
in its relation
on the visual nature of the fantasm
focusing
and Maria Torotk,
work of Nicolas Abraham
Lacanian
esp. The Wolf Man's Magic Word: A
1986) and L'?corce et le noyau (Paris, 1978).
(Minneapolis,
remarks on scopophilia
and the Gaze. Freud has important
in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological
Sexuality,
ed. James Strachey
1953), vol. VII, p. 194.
(London,
see Donald
W.
earliest
childhood
from
on,
importance
how an
is always analyzing
Lacan
Whereas
and
York,
1971).
Winnicott,
(New
Reality
Playing
the
Winnicott
of its very absence),
absent object can have presence
(in function
analyzes
other.
the
in
of
the
as a capacity
for
mature
presence
being present
imagination
are throws a pall over trauma
such memories
issue of how credible
13 The explosive
tr. Nicholas
Rand
Cryptonomy,
Between the Sign
Also Rapaport,
in Three Essays on the Theory of
Works of Sigmund Freud, tr. and
its
and
12 For this space,

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ON TRAUMATIC KNOWLEDGE AND LITERARY STUDIES

559

studies, even
to diagnosing
memories.

at this emerging
turn from diagnosing
child abuse
stage. Freud's ambivalent
is being
reenacted
about
it as a fantasy
recovered
today in the polemic
of having
The
in the
legal abuse of cases that play on our raised consciousness

to my mind,
this kind of violence
the original abuse.
extends,
past seriously underreported
that ignores rather
than faces the issue of the suggestibility
It is a legal violence
of the
a search for "the real," for decisive
human mind,
and the difficulty
of conducting
evidence,
to the individuals
one
involved.
increased
damage
Eventually,
good
hopes,
in this area; at the moment
it is salutary to remember
will prevail
that, as I
jurisprudence
not simply a persuasive,
is a coercive,
indicate further on, imagination
faculty.
14
Doctors' Stories: The Narrative
Structure of Medical
See Kathryn Montgomery
Hunter,
a remarkable
of the appropriateness
of the
1991),
(Princeton,
description
Knowledge
without

See also Stanley A. Leavy, The Psychoanalytic Dialogue


(New
literary ethos to clinical practice.
a "conversation"
the difference
between
with a text
Haven,
1980), esp. ch. 3 where
holding
is discussed.
Recovered
memories
that are false are usually
and a person
by
implanted
Richard Weisberg
seeks to lay the basis for a (more)
by a false conversation.
suggestion,
in his Poethics, and other Strageties of Law and Literature
(New York,
"literary jurisprudence"
1992).
on automatic
in the verse-measure,
embodied
remains
15 The
rhythm,
pilot, which
that the poem
The
latter is also
continues,
though without
guarantees
voice-feeling.
added
later.
assured by the sensitive prose glosses
distinction
from Coleridge
is made
clear by Alan Liu's extraordinary
for Wordsworth
is reference." What
that "The true apocalypse
is implied here is
an everyday
as nature.
trauma, mediated
by "nature," or what Wordsworth
conceptualizes
as
or
with
histoire
Liu identifies
the traumatic
?v?nementielle
aspect
history
(catastrophic,
16 Wordsworth's

statement

rather
than everyday
his position
but despite
this ambiguity
is
history,
history)
"The true apocalypse
will come when history crosses the zone of nature
clear and valuable:
to occupy
the self directly, when
the sense of history and Imagination
thus become
one,

eventful

is no more."
the mediating
See Alan Liu, Wordsworth,
the Sense ofHistory
figure,
of reference,
of this understanding
1989), pp. 42, 31. For the phenomenology
(Stanford,
see also Anselm
"The Memory
of Pictures: Roland
on
Barthes
and Augustine
Haverkamp,

and nature,

258-79.
Comparative Literature, 45 (1993),
Photography,"
Haverkamp
between
punctum and trauma.
17 We are satisfied,
that is, with "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner"
even when

we

cannot

reference
approaches
The Four Funflamental

the fantasy. One


get to the real behind
an inverse vanishing
a de tefabula
point,
tr. Alan Sheridan
Concepts ofPsycho-Analysis,

signals

the relation

as a narrative

poem,
say that poetic
narratur. Compare
Lacan,
(New York, 1978), p. 106.
could

also

the religious
in particular:
18 Concerning
Lacan's psychpanalytic
is to
implication
genius
on death and (absence
absorb a line of paramystical
leads
of) the self, which
speculations
from Hegel's
"labor of the negative,"
reintroduced
into French
strongly
thought
by
to Mallarm?'s
famous
letter to Henri
Cazalis
Blanchot's
Kojeve,
(April 1886), to Maurice
to death, a relation
relation
"which
lifelong effort at linking literature and an undialectical
is not

that of possibility,
achievements

progressive

which

does

of time,
is a

There
Space of Literature).
and Blanchot's
Ancient Mariner

not

or to an
or to the
understanding
to a radical reversal"
[the person]
(The
between
of the
similarity
Coleridge's
depiction
the Obscure
title): "He was
(in the novel ofthat
lead

but exposes
striking
Thomas

to mastery
him

from the reality of death.


In death
itself, he was
really dead and at the same time rejected
a
of death,
in the midst of nothingness
man,
deprived
horribly
destroyed
by his
stopped
own image, by this Thomas
before
torches."
him, bearer of extinguished
running
to Donald
I allude
19
W. Winnicott's
well-known
and
theory of transitional
objects
phenomena
In an
20

in Playing
exploratory

and Reality.
paper, which

suggests

that

"Psychoanalysis

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itself

is, arguably,

560
theory
different

more

about

forms

of

knowledge
traumatic

than

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

Dori Laub and Nanette


Auerhahn
typologize
and Not Knowing:
Massive
"Knowing
Psychic
de la Fondation
Auschwitz
(Actes V, Colloque
et m?moire
et genocides
Histoire
des crimes

therapy,"

knowledge:
Trimestriel

Bulletin
Memory,"
November
Brussels,
1992,
International,
nos. 44-45
nazis),
(1994), 69-95.
his own philosophy
of symbolism,
mocks
the mechanical,
21 Val?ry,
developing
quasi
of cognitive
scientific
"What is to be thought
referencing
by an exam question:
temptation
of this custom: Piercing
the eyes of a bird so that it can sing better. Explain
and develop.

Traumatic

(3 pages)."
The
effort

22

nonaccidental

to be
rather

"historical"
than

accidental

is, in this
status

context,
of

such

a way
encounter,

often
an

of

on the
insisting
on a (sometimes

or
superstitious)
conjuncture.
valuing of coincidence
as a concrete,
while
23 Hegel's
of Mind,
history
Phenomenology
respecting
a
moves
in
is so deeply
still
toward
end-state
which
process,
totalizing
history

dialectical
internalized

a part of us but of
the experience
of history does not become
that it is forgotten.
Basically
a substance in which we participate.
that the Sherlock
Holmes
Catherine
24
story aims "to
argues
type of detective
Belsey
to scientific
to make
and mystery,
accountable,
subject
everything
explicit,
dispel magic
can remain, when
a "dark and magical"
to women.
I
it comes
analysis"
though
quality
our
does not succeed
but in fact often
increases
that this Enlightenment
argue
project
of life. See Catherine
and uncanniness
of the magic
Belsey, Critical Practice (London,
and Low: The Case of the
H. Hartman,
"Literature High
pp. 11 Iff., and Geoffrey
For the literary person
1975), pp. 203-22.
(Chicago,
Mystery
Story," in The Fate of Reading
as
arrow: a poem, part of a poem,
as effectively
it is often a tolle, lege that captivates
Cupid's
a
or even a fragment,
from another
admonition
is invested with aura and becomes
riddling
sense

1980),

world.
25

See,

Shepherd,

for example,
Madeleine

D. W. Winnicott:
Davis

ed. Clare Winnicott,


Ray
Psycho-Analytic
Explorations,
of our
Mass.,
1989), pp. 146-48. The measure
new transitional
and
(more creatively)
finding

(Cambridge,
ambivalence

then, is tolerating
or phenomena
is the "space" for such objects.
in the realm of culture, which
objects
is
to Swedenborgian
sonnet
indebted
Baudelaire's
26
mysticism,
"Correspondences,"
in this context.
one of the proof-texts
for the symbolist
and is often
cited
movement,

maturity,

makes
"?hnlich"
the German
("Zum Bilde Prousts")
essay on Proust
Benjamin's
a word close to the German
for ancestors.
"ahnen"
resemble
(to forebode),
to literary theory are expertly
in J. Hillis
discussed
essay and its relevance
Benjamin's
Fiction and Repetition: Seven English Novels
Mass.,
Miller,
1982), ch. 1.
(Cambridge,
Imust add, here, a short excursus. That
there is a real-world
27
trigger to trauma should

Walter

(resembling)

even when we cannot prove


had an
that it originally
(as a "first" encounter)
that trigger
brain. However,
similar to that of a stroke on the human
the psyche
trauma as falling
or violent
act. For even in such a "positive"
a perverse
is not necessarily
at the real on the one hand, and a devaluing
in love there is schism: an intense grasping

not be denied
effect

on

or fading away of everything


else, on the other: "Iwonder
by my troth, what thou, and I /
to the lovers' new world,
their
is John Donne's
till we lov'd?" This
good-morrow
for the real,
still more
insofar as a desire
becomes
complex
"waking souls." The situation
to close
contributes
till then?"),
for contact
it ("were we not wean'd
with
actually
encounters
kind. We
of the traumatic
tempt fate.

Did,

as in ego psychology
is that the ideal of psychic
is clear enough
What
integration,
to
it continues
"master" trauma:
We cannot
b?te noire), will have to be modified.
(Lacan's
or alongside
the "integrated"
lie outside
event, not serious
(random
ego. Any accident
a
think of the
action":
psychic
fatality by "deferred
injury alone) may inflate into
physical
Garcia Marquez's
fatal incidents
that often characterize
casual, overlooked
yet eventually
stories.

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ON TRAUMATIC KNOWLEDGE AND LITERARY STUDIES


28

The

in Lacan,

symbolic,

is not

a cure of the real but

561

is itself a kind

of trauma.

For

the

the phase of the imaginaire


necessary
developmentally
(essentially
or a two-body,
to the three-body
nurturer-child
of the
narcissistic,
relationship)
phase
is always traumatizing.
with the onset of the oedipal
The
(correlative
complex)
symbolic
transition

child's

it as missing.
the real or accepting
itself; and it does so by missing
a much
of
view
the
relation
between
traumatic
and
simpler
If the mother-child
transitional objects
that are
it, develops
dyad, as he conceives

symbolic
Winnicott,

order must

cure

however,

has

symbolic.
"a symbol
objects

from

the union

of

of the baby and the mother


(or part
at that point
in mental
time and space where
or continuity?then
trauma occurs when
such

located

of

the mother)"?that
is,
or
contiguity
is disabled.
symbol-making
separation

replaces union
of Cultural Experience,"
See Winnicott,
pp. 95-103.
Playing and Reality, esp. "The Location
in The Man who Mistook
his Wife for a Hat, mentions
On
29 Oliver
Sachs,
Wittgenstein's
no
it might
titled On Doubt, being marked
have been
Certainty, and remarks
by doubting
or
wonders
be situations
whether
there might
less than affirming:
"[Wittgenstein]
conditions
one's

which

body, perhaps
It is interesting

30

to doubt
the certainty of the body, which do give one grounds
to lose one's entire body in total doubt"
(p. 43).
in neoclassical
called the scene of
aesthetic
theory what Aristotle

take away
indeed
that

scene showing
extreme
was not allowed
to be
(a potentially
traumatizing
suffering)
on
be
introduced
in
It
could
narration
famous
the
(as
stage.
represented
only through
r?cits of Racinian
type of psychoanalytic
important
literary criticism, more
tragedy). An

pathos

a childhood
in discovering
and thematizing
over, consists
fantasm, which may have a
as well as ontogenetic
element. A perhaps
unintended
effect of this kind of
phylogenetic
or
the
of the
is
that
it
relative
limited
very
autonomy
suggests
inauthenticity
analysis
now classic, example
isMarie
individual's
The earliest,
psychic development.
Bonaparte,
a hallucinatory
swan appears;
in which
"L'Identification
d'une fille ? sa m?re morte,"
the
a large scale by Charles Mauron
in Des m?taphores obs?dantes
insight is deployed
literarily on
au
(Paris, 1963).
mythe personnel
or
is always disturbed,
31
distance
between
self and other
"[T]he
Compare
being
... there is
of self-presentation
in us ... therefore, we are
disturbed
always some difficulty
obliged

to fall back

on

a form

of

'representation.'"

1975), p. 74.
Reading
(Chicago,
32 Jacques
Derrida,
"Otobiographies,"
ed.

Translation,

Claude

Nebr.,
1988; original
educational
writings

Levesque
French
ed.,
in his Nachlass,

and

Geoffrey

H.

Hartman,

The Fate

of

in The Ear

of the Other: Otobiography,


Transference,
tr. Peggy Kamuf
McDonald,
(Lincoln,
extract
comes from
I reproduce
Nietzsche

Christie

1982). The
in English

as On

theFuture

of our Educational

Institutions,

tr. J. M. Kennedy.
Fred Botting,
33

in an issue of the Oxford Literary Review with


the title "Experiencing
the
's heterology
evokes
the importance
of Bataille
and quotes Denis Hollier's
Impossible,"
has never perhaps
been any other theory than theories of the
Against Architecture: "[T]here
as
has suggested,
since all theory
Derrida
is deployed
the pioneer
other,
Jacques
along
at points where
that it is
intervening
homogeneity
perceives
Bataille
and Derrida,
the
how,
suggests
Botting
through
theory becomes
... the
to theory, a "factor in the process
of disturbance
of the
enemy
sustaining
shattering
narrative which
and institutionalized
French writings
in Britain
pedagogical
popularized
an
means
of
unified
thread
structuralism,
by
connecting
apparently
psychoanalysis,
Marxism
and poststructuralism."
15 (1993),
the negative
206. On
Oxford Literary Review,
frontiers

of assimilation,

threatened."

aspect of literary pedagogy,


Canon Formation
(Chicago,
in thePhilosophy
of Culture
34

Compare

Susan

see also John Guillory,


Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary
and Kwame Anthony
In My Father's House: Africa
Appiah,

1993)

(New York,
1992), p. 55.
"The 'Torah' of Criticism

Handelman,

the Pedagogical
Moment,"Journal
Recuperating
astutely contrasts Levinas and de Man,
casting

and

the Criticism

of Torah:

ofReligion, 74 (1994), 356-71. Handelman


the latter as epistemol?gica!
villain?but
she

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562

NEW LITERARY HISTORY

de Man's

in "blind" knowledge,
interest
his critique
of the arrogance
of insight,
to describe
the aporia
of performative
and constative.
with
struggle
Compare
Handelman
Barbara
of de Man's
in "Deconstruction,
Johnson's
critique
impersonality
and Pedagogy,"
in her A World of Difference
Feminism,
(Baltimore,
1987), pp. 42-46.
text is vulnerable
not only because
35 The
of its very historicity,
because
it was produced
neglects
and his

a mortal

See Thomas
The Vulnerable Text: Essays on Renaissance Literature
Greene,
to the
For a reconception
of literary history
close
1986).
spirit of this
see Sanford
versus Not
"The Experience
of Literary History: Vulgar
Budick,
paragraph,
to one
Budick
25 (1994),
749-77.
restricts his understanding
Vulgar," New Literary History,
by

(New

kind

person.

York,

of

a
its effective
founding
through
connects
of mind, moreover,
the
with the experience
of a death
as the record
or recovery
loss" that makes
of
in-life,
"unrecuperable
literary history,
rather than fully realizable.
"The representation
of this
life, something
previous
potential
the claim that an unrecuperable
entails
of
loss within
is a condition
experience
thought
tradition
and in particular
(that of the West,
or Vergilian
translatio sludii). His chiastic frame
"life-in-death"
of reinscribed
words
(that is, intertextuality)

Roman

one

of literary history
kind of experience
(and one kind of tradition)"
(767).
'Torah' of Criticism,"
"The
364. My discussion
does not resolve,
of
Handelman,
of description
the issue of metalanguage
from the object
course,
(or a language
separate
in literary criticism. While
the situation
in literary studies
is not the same as in
language)

36

medicine,
pp.
37

in Doctors*Stories,
Kathryn Hunter's
chapter on "Narrative
Incommensurability,"
is very suggestive.
Elaine
Showalter's
and such
for example,
work on (male) hysteria
continuing
as Susan J. Wolfson's
in poetry
of tone
and the
explorations
"Lyrical Ballads

123-47,

See,
sensitive

in Men Writing
the
Women's
Voices,"
Feeling: Wordsworth
Writing
1994),
(Albany,
Theory and the Question of Genders, ed. Tha?s E. Morgan
Eilenberg,
Strange Power of Speech: Wordsworth,
Coleridge and Literary
the
1992) shows these voices as a passion,
(New York,
strange within
something
or otherness
can be but is not inevitably
This
linked to
strangeness
usurping.
of

Language
Feminine:

(Men)

Literature,
Susan
29-57.

pp.
Possession
poet,

and

or undermine
issue of the identity of voice
issues. The
(or how voices reinforce
connects
also with legal ownership
and perhaps
the copyright
issue.
identity)
questions
in Handelman,
From Totality and Infinity, quoted
"The 'Torah' of Criticism,"
38
362.
an ideal of mastery,
as "the coincidence
Levinas
of the teaching
defined
retains, however,
the ideal of an embodiment
that exceeds
and the teacher." This is, precisely,
epistemologi
gender

exemplarity.
inquiry and founds
Norman
O. Brown, Apocalypse?And/Or?Metamorphosis
40
bush of Scripture
is never consumed,
The burning
's theory
in this respect
both Bataille
that conspicuous
cal

39

excess

is an (anticapitalistic)
resources,
as a writing
that cannot

dissemination
41

1991).
(Berkeley,
to recall
however.
It is illuminating
or the disposal
of
consumption,

and Derrida's
religious
theory of
phenomenon,
return to the father
author).
(original
of Communication,"
in my The Fate
and the Dream

"I. A. Richards
See, for example,
a Theory
and "Christopher
Smart's Magnificat:
Toward
of Reading, pp. 20-40,
tation," pp. 74-98,
means
an irreducibly
is clarified
42 What
literary knowledge
by Gabriele

ungedachte

Wissen
68

der

Literatur,"

(1994),

Deutsche

Vierteljahrsschrift

f?r

of Represen
Schwab,

Literaturwissenschaft

"Das
und

167-89.

Geistesgeschichte,
I stress the depiction
of childhood
43
trauma, but when Wordsworth
to suffer an adult trauma. When
Britain declares
he
must
be
said
betrayal

describes

political
war on France
in

of Cintra
in 1808, an imagery enters
the Convention
it accepts
that, while
1793, or when
I quote from
in the "spots of time," is distinctive.
is found
not entirely different
from what
was
the Convention
of the poet's pamphlet
the opening
of Cintra: "Yet
Concerning
paragraph
as
an
none
it
affliction:
and
measurable
received
the event
the
Convention]
[of
open
by

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ON TRAUMATIC KNOWLEDGE AND LITERARY STUDIES

563

to every one; but there was an under-expression


features bold and intelligible
... we were astonished
like men who are
strange, dark, and mysterious?and
to be helpless,
like men who feel themselves
without
overwhelmed
forewarning?fearful
has

indeed

which

was

and angry like men who are betrayed."


indignant
as I have tried
difference.
For Coleridge,
We glimpse
there aWordsworth/Coleridge
to show, the obscure
of
desire
is
is
and
it
the
order
that must be
object
symbolic
symbolic,

and
44

repaired.
45
See Book

11 of Lacan's

Seminars:

give here not a faithful exposition


of the burning
child.
dream
46 One
that remains
question

The Four Fundamental

but a free

interpretation

I
Concepts of Psycho-Analysis.
on the
of Lacan's
commentary

or the very
is whether
Freud himself,
history of psycho
encounter.
The main
should be seen as a missed
criticism of Freud at present
is,
analysis,
as I have mentioned,
think he evaded
the "real" as a social fact: that by
by those who
of child abuse, and following
away from evidence
aspects of the
moving
only the psychical
in fantasy life, he failed as physician
role of seduction
and reformer.
It is fascinating
in this
scene
"Father, don't you see ..." recalls a deadly seduction
regard that the child's pathetic
a
on an
one
child's
in
famous
ballad
that
became
of
the
(exerted
imagination)
great
ailing
of German
culture: Goethe's
showpieces
Erl-King.
of "revisionary
Harold
Bloom's
ratio," The Anxiety of Influence: A
concept
Theory of Poetry (New York, 1973).
to a visit in 1958, when
he was 15, with his adoptive
48
often points
"[Newt Gingrich]
of World War
battlefield
father to Verdun,
the bloodiest
collection
of
I, and its warehouse
pedagogical
47
Compare

as the seminal moment


in his poetical
of age. 'It is the driving force which
coming
into history and politics,
and molded
in his 1984 political
my life,' he wrote
pushed me
. . .
"Windows of Opportunity."
like
he
said
last year,
'are what
manifesto,
me,'
'People
us and Auschwitz.'"
stand between
New York Times, 24 November
1994, p. A28.
bones,

n. 3 for this quotation


from Lacan.
In my The Fate of Reading,
that rhetoric
in literary-historical
pp. 126ff., I described
terms as belonging
or
to an Eastern
to convert
consciousness
Keats wished
into
epiphanic
or
an English
mode.
Hesperian
see my "Words and Wounds."
51
For a consideration
of the ear as a psychic
organ,
Even here Milton
to time and
52
insinuates
gave significance
figurai
typology, which

49

See

50

too is
the Christian
of historical
For Adam
progress.
largely structured
understanding
to advance,
made
in his first experience
of woman,
from her shadowy
type to truth. In
trauma theory
the shadow of a "truth" (an unassimilated
real) which
reality is always under
us "more like a man
makes
that he dreads,
than one / Who
/ Flying from something
the thing he loved" (Wordsworth,
"Tintern Abbey").
sought
I wish to thank Kevis Goodman
53
for helpful
remarks on this essay.

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