Kaplan, E. Ann

Assigned: Kaplan, E. Ann. From Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media, from Chapter 1. “Why Trauma Now?: Freud and Trauma Studies” (1856-65). Also read the editors’ introduction (1853-56).

From Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media (2005)

From Chapter 1. Why Trauma Now? Freud and Trauma Studies

1. On 1856-58 (“It all begins with Freud…”), what historical context does E. Ann Kaplan provide for the development of trauma arising from family dysfunctionality and from the new technologies of the Industrial Revolution? What early insights did Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer develop as a result of their interactions with the French theorists and practitioners Jean-Martin Charcot and Pierre Janet?

2. On 1858-59 (“Freud and Breuer implicitly gender…”), how, according to Kaplan,  do Sigmund Freud and Josef Breuer come to deal with trauma in mostly gender-specific terms? How does Freud view the cause and processes of trauma experienced mostly by females? What limitations do these authors’ studies show especially with regard to the “war neuroses” (1859) mostly experienced by men during WWI? What key question, according to Kaplan, does Freud not ask about the differences in neurotic symptoms experienced by women and men?

3. On 1860-61 (“Freud moved on to develop…”), how, according to Kaplan, did German, French and, in particular, English doctors tasked with treating male patients during WWI tend to theorize and treat the hysterical symptoms manifested by such patients? How did Freud himself at first discuss these cases, and why, in Kaplan’s view, did he take the rather broad approach that he did?

4. On 1861-62 (“Toward the end of World War I…”), how does Kaplan assess the state of Freud’s thinking about “war neuroses” (1861) towards the end of WWI, when he contributed an introduction to conference papers on the subject by colleagues Sandor Ferenczi, Karl Abraham, and Ernst Simmel? On what account did Freud express irritation with certain doctors regarding their attitude towards psychoanalysis when traumatic symptoms were not connected to wartime experiences? How did Freud himself attempt to connect wartime neuroses with non-military neuroses, and what important insights did his attempt furnish?

5. On 1862-63 (“Freud cannot in the short space…”), Kaplan recounts how Freud, in spite of never having personally treated a wartime trauma patient, was called as an “Expert Witness” (1862) about this type of neurosis at an investigation of his colleague Professor Julius von Wagner-Jauregg, director of the clinic at the Allgemeine Krankenhaus, who was accused of mistreatment by an Austrian officer named Walter Kauders. On what grounds, according to Kaplan, did Freud take issue with the treatment given Kauders by Professor Wagner-Jauregg?

6. On 1863-64 (“Significantly, Freud found himself returning…”), what theory about the sources of “unpleasure” (1863), according to Kaplan, did Freud develop in his 1920 study Beyond the Pleasure Principle? How did further thinking on this theory lead Freud to try to explain the effects of neurotic symptoms caused by accidents and by violent wartime events, as well as by “internal versus external assault on the ego” (1864)?

7. On 1864-65 (“But Freud’s most significant, and…”), Kaplan refers to Freud’s later work on trauma in Moses and Monotheism. What theory does Freud develop in that study with regard to the triggering of earlier psychological traumas in a patient’s life? How, according to Kaplan, did Freud anticipate some of today’s findings on what we now call PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder)?

8. General question: Write a brief review, perhaps with the help of E. Ann Kaplan’s 2005 book Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media, of the current understanding of traumatic experience and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) theory and treatment. What have contemporary researchers understood better about these problems than psychoanalysts and other clinicians did in Freud’s time, and what problems still confront this vital field of psychological research?

9. General question: What literary texts are you familiar with that involve the representation and exploration of traumatic experiences on the part of the characters? How does trauma theory as discussed in E. Ann Kaplan’s Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media help you better understand the text or texts you choose to discuss? Wartime poetry and fiction is a good source for such literature, but other kinds of literature might also suit the topic.

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. et al., eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 3rd ed. New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-60295-1.

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