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Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  258 ratings  ·  17 reviews
"If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet."—from the Introduction

Paperback, 168 pages
Published June 11th 1996 by Johns Hopkins University Press (first published April 1st 1996)
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I read Cathy Caruth’s book Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History for a research project I’m working on. The author is well known for her work on trauma theory.

According to Caruth, “the term trauma is understood as a wound inflicted not upon the body but upon the mind” (3). “In its most general definition, trauma describes an overwhelming experience of sudden or catastrophic events in which the response to the event occurs in the often delayed, uncontrolled repetitive appearance of
Rodney Likaku
Though I have a problem with Post Freudian theorization of trauma because it carries along with it the debris associated with sexuality, repression and uncanny experiences heaped on Freud; Caruth does outline a historical approach to trauma theory that is lucid, entertaining and at the bare minimum informative. If she is nothing else to literary trauma theory (which, by God she is plenty) then she is a literary genius weaving a psychological narrative in history and theory. Caruth has been the ...more
Andrew Hathaway
In the interest of full-disclosure - it's been well over a year since I read anything too challenging and I admit that there were some parts of the text that went well over my current handling ability for knowledge. That said, this book is in the curious position between a close reading of other pieces of literature with a focus on trauma, and an Introduction To. So it varies from requiring a good deal of knowledge of the source materials to offering some of the same introductory information rep ...more

I hate Freud. Quite devotedly.
History is happening at the very moment of Me writing this and You reading, but it "seems to be disappearing before our eyes", and Cathy Caruth wants to know how to think about such history and how we might witness it.

"History is precisely the way we are implicated in each other's traumas". Understanding this means gaining the ability to grasp the meaning of what-is-going-on-now. With Us and with Others, because there is some ethics to memory. We h a v e to see each other's traumas, the trauma
не зовсім те, чого я чекала від назви й анотації: багато про фрейда, лакана, фрейдистське розуміння травми (з частими повторами; схоже, книжка укладена зі статтей, не дуже притертих одна до одної), але обмаль про історичні травми та наративи довкола них. якщо вам цікава відповідь, наприклад, на питання, як можна виговорити війну, варто звернутися до іншого тексту – щоправда, зараз так і не скажу, якого.
Joanne Gass
Well, I was hoping for help in understanding trauma theory as something other than a very intricate explication of Freud's dream of the burning bed. Too much emphasis on Freud and not enough exploration of the narrative impulse.
Suzette Kunz
More scintillating reading for the PhD.
While this served as a useful first book about theorizing trauma, it left a lot of unanswered questions. So much of it is based on one or two example from Freud, I wonder if Caruth's conclusions are applicable to a larger set of experiences. Part of my confusion, however, may stem from the de Man essay that felt forced into the book. While I understand that this is a collection of progressive essays, a little more connection between the Freud essays and those about de Man and the idea of falling ...more
Much of the book had little relevance to my work with trauma narratives, howeever it is essential I read Caruths work. I enjoyed it for the most part, but have to admit to skimming most of the last chapter on Lacan, Freud, and memory due to the circuitous nature of the argument that caruth was laying out. More than anything, it was a fine example of how you can actually say the same thing 20 different ways.

I look forward to reading her other works on trauma.
I really enjoyed Caruth's take on trauma theory and her application to literature. She has a great touch be able to apply clinical psychoanalysis to a literary context with her readings of Tasso's epic poem "Gerusalemme Liberata" and contextualizing Freud for a post holocaust era. Adding a focus on voice and language to trauma theory breaks down barriers that made trauma theory a little stale and opens it up to new interpretations. Very well done!
Pete Faziani
This text is very interesting and also very complex. The concepts are hinged on a reader being familiar with the work of Freud. While it isn't necessary to read Freud first because Caruth does a nice job presenting and supporting ideas, it helps to have a copy of Freud handy.
Mihaela Precup
It's a good intro to trauma studies, and constructs a wonderful argument - starting from Freud, of course - around the construction of trauma as the voice which speaks to you from the lips of the wound of an other.
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Isadora Wagner
A good read for those trying to familiarize themselves with Caruth's work and the field of trauma and literature studies.
The last chapter - on the ethics of traumatic memory - really saved this book for me.
Zohra Star
The wound and the voice and the repetition...
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Cathy Caruth (born 1955) is Frank H. T. Rhodes Professor of Humane Letters at Cornell University and is appointed in the departments of English and Comparative Literature. She taught previously at Yale and at Emory University, where she helped build the Department of Comparative Literature. She received her Ph.D. from Yale University in 1988 and is the author of Empirical Truths and Critical Ficti ...more
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“If Freud turns to literature to describe traumatic experience, it is because literature, like psychoanalysis, is interested in the complex relation between knowing and not knowing, and it is at this specific point at which knowing and not knowing intersect that the psychoanalytic theory of traumatic experience and the language of literature meet.” 16 likes
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