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Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History

3.87  ·  Rating Details  ·  300 Ratings  ·  22 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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Jul 15, 2008 Leanna rated it liked it
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
Oct 09, 2014 Rodney Likaku rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 28, 2014 Andrew Hathaway rated it liked it
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
May 31, 2016 loafingcactus rated it liked it
The book is chapters which are stand-alone essays (as so many books are these days...), each explaining the gap between experience and knowledge that is trauma through the analysis of a particular work of fiction.

It is very dense and very theoretical and I wouldn't have gotten anywhere with it if I had not already read much more accessible work both on humanity and on psychology. It actually seems like a very narrow work as well, as it doesn't reach very far into either of those topics to really
Jan 26, 2013 Dara rated it really liked it
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
Nov 30, 2014 verbava rated it it was ok
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
Aug 20, 2014 Joanne Gass rated it liked it
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.
Feb 09, 2016 D rated it it was amazing
I was happy to meet Cathy in person. I have heard her brilliant lecture “Human Rights: Literature and Trauma”- she felt a great passion for what she was doing. That was when I decided to read this book and I was not disappointed.
Trauma has two sides: inescapability and survival – that is the key to the understanding of this great book.
I like Cathy’s analysis of Freud's works and "Hiroshima mon amour" film. Especially, when I watched the film after reading, I noticed their laughter at the beginn
Suzette Kunz
Aug 28, 2014 Suzette Kunz rated it it was ok
More scintillating reading for the PhD.
Nov 04, 2010 Dave rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
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
Oct 30, 2013 Jess rated it it was ok
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.
May 12, 2009 Ryan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graduate-school
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!
Chongmin Alicia
Mar 18, 2016 Chongmin Alicia rated it liked it
A lucid and concise account of trauma theory with very helpful signposting throughout the text, which approaches trauma theory through application rather than giving an outline of what it might constitute. There's a lot of emphasis on Freudian psychoanalysis throughout the text (despite chapters featuring de Man/Kant), and the two sections I enjoyed the most were the ones on Hiroshima mon amour and the burning child.
Pete Faziani
Nov 21, 2013 Pete Faziani rated it really liked it
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
Aug 10, 2011 Mihaela Precup rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 21, 2009 Malteschuldt rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 23, 2016 Brooke rated it it was amazing
Shelves: f-you-up
Essential thesis book. I owe Cathy Caruth a serious thank you note for explaining trauma theory in a way that actually made a lick of sense.
Isadora Wagner
Dec 20, 2012 Isadora Wagner rated it liked it
Shelves: war, trauma, theory
A good read for those trying to familiarize themselves with Caruth's work and the field of trauma and literature studies.
Oct 07, 2015 Stedwards rated it liked it
Pivotal moment in trauma studies in 1990s. Feels dated, focuses on lit/film critique - not my lens.
Apr 03, 2013 Brandi rated it liked it
The last chapter - on the ethics of traumatic memory - really saved this book for me.
Aug 26, 2014 Linda rated it it was ok

I hate Freud. Quite devotedly.
Zohra Star
May 24, 2007 Zohra Star rated it it was amazing
Shelves: traumatheory
The wound and the voice and the repetition...
Kayla Curtis
Kayla Curtis marked it as to-read
Jun 21, 2016
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Althaf Ahmed K marked it as to-read
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Kelly marked it as to-read
Jun 14, 2016
Eyerusalem rated it it was amazing
Jun 12, 2016
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Niyas Ahamed marked it as to-read
Jun 08, 2016
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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
More about Cathy Caruth...

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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.” 18 likes
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