Trauma and representation in women's diaries of the Second World War
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As a transnational contribution to the study of life-writing and to the understanding of women’s war experiences, ‘Trauma and Representation in Women’s Diaries of the Second World War’ examines women’s war diaries from the point of view of trauma studies. It provides new readings of established texts, such as Frances Partridge’s A Pacifist’s War and Etty Hillesum’s An Interrupted Life, alongside previously unexamined archival diaries and several recently published diaries that have received little critical attention to date. Through close reading, it analyses how traumatic registers, ranging from mild to severe, manifest in both the genesis and subject matter of women’s diaries. The Introduction discusses the post-war cultural imperatives that have worked to repress women’s accounts of the Second World War, particularly those which describe devastation in the domestic sphere. It situates diary writing contextually within the field of autobiographical writing, exploring the characteristics of this contested genre and questioning the possibilities it opens up for the conveyance of traumatic experience. Finally, it provides a brief historiography of trauma studies, focusing on the complicated relationship between trauma and modern warfare and the difficulties traumatic experience poses for testimony. In the ensuing chapters, my analyses demonstrate the various ways war trauma manifests in women’s diaries. Chapter One examines the physiological and psychological costs of repeated exposure to violent situations such as bomb raids and rape through a combination of psychoanalytic and neurobiological discourses on trauma. Chapter Two discusses diaries that were kept at a relative distance from violent conflict, exploring women’s affective responses to the changes in their lives that occurred during wartime through theories of depression and melancholia. Finally, Chapter Three constitutes a final analysis of the relationship between trauma and representation, analysing women’s descriptions of both the physical and societal abjection that proliferated towards the end of the war.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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Description of related resourcesPrimary Sources: Addison, Eleanor Corkhill Adams. ‘Eleanor Corkhill Adams Addison Diary, 1939-1944’
Archival: Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. Berr, Hélène. The Journal of Hélène Berr. Duras, Marguerite. La douleur. Hillesum, Etty. Etty: The Letters and Diaries of Etty Hillesum 1941-1943. Laqueur, Renata. ‘Diary of Bergen-Belsen (March 1944-April 1945)’
Archival: Lévy-Hass, Hanna. Diary of Bergen-Belsen. Partridge, Frances. A Pacifist’s War. Vassiltchikov, Marie. Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945. Wyndham, Joan. Love Lessons: A Wartime Diary. von Kardorff, Ursula. Diary of a Nightmare: Berlin 1942-1945
Secondary Sources: Caruth, Cathy. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Cixous, Hélène. Rootprints: Memory and Life Writing. Cixous, Hélène. ‘Sorties: Out and Out: Attacks/Ways Out/Forays’, in The Newly Born Woman. Edkins, Jenny. Trauma and the Memory of Politics. Felman, Shoshana and Dori Laub, M.D. Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. LaCapra, Dominick. Writing History, Writing Trauma. Langer, Lawrence L. Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory. Lejeune, Phillipe. On Diary. Luckhurst, Roger. The Trauma Question. Rau, Petra. Conflict, Nationhood and Corporeality in Modern Literature: Bodies-at-War. Rothschild, Babette. The Body Remembers: The Psychophysiology of Trauma and Trauma Treatment. Scaer, Robert, MD. The Body Bears the Burden: Trauma, Dissociation, and Disease 2nd edn. Scaer, Robert, MD. The Trauma Spectrum: Hidden Wounds and Human Resiliency. Smith, Sidonie. Subjectivity, Identity, and the Body: Women’s Autobiographical Practices in the Twentieth Century. van der Kolk, Bessel A., Alexander McFarlane, Lars Weisaeth (eds.). Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society
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