Writing History, Writing Trauma

Writing History, Writing Trauma

by Dominick LaCapra
     
 

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Trauma and its aftermath pose acute problems for historical representation and understanding. In Writing History, Writing Trauma, Dominick LaCapra critically analyzes attempts by theorists and literary critics to come to terms with trauma and with the crucial role post-traumatic testimonies—notably Holocaust testimonies—assume in thought and in

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Overview

Trauma and its aftermath pose acute problems for historical representation and understanding. In Writing History, Writing Trauma, Dominick LaCapra critically analyzes attempts by theorists and literary critics to come to terms with trauma and with the crucial role post-traumatic testimonies—notably Holocaust testimonies—assume in thought and in writing. These attempts are addressed in a series of six interlocking essays that adapt psychoanalytic concepts to historical analysis, while employing sociocultural and political critique to elucidate trauma and its aftereffects in culture and in people. This updated edition includes a substantive new preface that reconsiders some of the issues raised in the book.

Editorial Reviews

Criticism

The strength of LaCapra's text lies in its urgency, in the clarity of its commitment to historiographic adequacy and the constructive potential of a psychoanalytic mode of interpretation, and in its appeal to a sense of civic responsibility.

Holocaust and Genocide Studies

Insightful and compassionate... LaCapra both uses and transcends contemporary critical theory in assessing the influence of trauma on present-day historical writing.

Modernism/Modernity

Until now trauma studies lacked the kind of discerning metacommentary that would adjudicate among its emergent logics, truth claims, intellectual strategies, objects of analysis, and scholarly positions. That dream of totalization, however, is precisely what LaCapra casts doubt upon in his important new book.

SubStance

LaCapra's analysis of trauma is folded into an ambitious and compelling reflection on the possibilities for a genuinely cross-disciplinary theoretical dialogue on history... Important reading not only to trauma theorists and their critics, but to historians and literary critics of all persuasions invested in rethinking the relationship between trauma, history, and ethics.

Tikkun

Thoughtful and compelling... LaCapra's discussions of historiography, philosophy, and psychoanalysis are extraordinarily lucid, and this book is a brilliant example of some of the capabilities of contemporary trauma theory in analyzing representations of trauma.

Booknews
LaCapra (history, Cornell University) examines the problem of trauma in historical representation. These six essays address theoretical and literary-critical approaches to the issue, and consider the role of post-traumatic testimonies (especially those concerning the Holocaust) in contemporary scholarship. The depiction of absence and loss, the weight given to the victim's voice, and the relationships between perpetrators and victims are all given a prominent place. An interview with Yad Vashen is also included. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
SubStance - Debarati Sanyal
LaCapra's analysis of trauma is folded into an ambitious and compelling reflection on the possibilities for a genuinely cross-disciplinary theoretical dialogue on history... Important reading not only to trauma theorists and their critics, but to historians and literary critics of all persuasions invested in rethinking the relationship between trauma, history and ethics.

Literary Research - Erik Weisengruber
Intellectually complex yet lucid.

Literary Research
Intellectually complex yet lucid.

— Erik Weisengruber

Criticism - Nina Goss and Gary Handwerk
The strength of LaCapra's text lies in its urgency, in the clarity of its commitment to historiographic adequacy and the constructive potential of a psychoanalytic mode of interpretation, and in its appeal to a sense of civic responsibility.

Modernism/Modernity - Walter Kalaidjian
Until now trauma studies lacked the kind of discerning metacommentary that would adjudicate among its emergent logics, truth claims, intellectual strategies, objects of analysis, and scholarly positions. That dream of totalization, however, is precisely what LaCapra casts doubt upon in his important new book.

Holocaust and Genocide Studies - Richard L. Rubenstein
LaCapra's insightful and compassionate Writing History, Writing Trauma concerns the interpretation of historical traumas such as the Holocaust and the traumas' enduring effects. LaCapra both uses and transcends contemporary critical theory in assessing the influence of trauma on present-day historical writing.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781421414003
Publisher:
Johns Hopkins University Press
Publication date:
08/07/2014
Series:
Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
264
Sales rank:
1,138,007
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Carolyn Dean
In these typically cogent essays, LaCapra once again works to determine subtle and necessary distinctions between history and trauma, absence and loss, and theory and practice while never reducing them to binaries. Few other historians have so forcefully appealed to the power of empathy in addressing historical trauma, and none have done so much to place history and critical theory into a mutually enriching and necessary dialogue.

Eric Santner
One could not wish for a more judicious, lucid, and compassionate guide through the complexities of post-traumatic writing than LaCapra. No one has done more to sustain the vitality and humanity of critical thinking in the face of those historical events—above all the Shoah—which seem to defy comprehension. These essays will frame the debates on the 'writing of trauma' for years to come. LaCapra lays out, with the care, precision, and compassion we have come to expect from him, the terms and distinctions by which we can begin to think through the complexities of post-traumatic writing. These essays provide absolutely crucial points of orientation in the haunted spaces of post-Holocaust culture, thought, and representation.

Geoffrey Hartman
These are essays on the cutting edge, consistent in theme and perspective, carefully argued, sometimes personal, always clear. Writing History, Writing Trauma offers a critique of unalloyed 'objectivism,' combined with a lively attempt to conceptualize how history writing should deal with the 'post-traumatic'—a category that is merging more and more with 'post-modernism,' 'post-structuralism,' and 'post-Holocaust.'.

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Meet the Author

Dominick LaCapra is the Bryce and Edith M. Bowmar Professor in Humanistic Studies emeritus at Cornell University. His books include History and Its Limits: Human, Animal, Violence and History, Literature, Critical Theory.

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