For the thesis, I am writing on representations of trauma in three postmodern texts: Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves and David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. I will examine the ways in which each of these texts engages with both the popular conceptions of trauma and the trauma of postmodernism.
I am going to divide the thesis into three chapters and discuss one text per chapter. In Chapter One, I will introduce the various trauma theories that I will examine throughout the thesis. To do this, I will draw upon Cathy Caruth’s Trauma: Explorations in Memory, in particular Caruth’s introductory chapter entitled ‘Trauma and Experience’ for her discussion on trauma as belated and Shoshana Felman’s chapter ‘Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching’ for her examination of recovery through writing. I will also look at the first chapter of Laurie Vickroy’s Trauma and Survival in Contemporary Fiction entitled ‘Representing Trauma: Issues, Contexts, Narrative Tools’ because this chapter outlines Judith Herman’s theory of recovery through discussion. Additionally, I will refer to Alan Gibbs’ introductory chapter of Contemporary American Trauma Narratives, ‘The Trauma Paradigm and Its Discontents’, because it introduces Kalí Tal’s writings on perpetrator trauma and Ann Kaplan’s idea of traumatic memories as affected by fantasy.
Having outlined the theories of Caruth, Felman, Herman, Tal and Kaplan, I will then discuss them in relation to In the Lake of the Woods. For my examination of this novel, I will consult the second chapter of Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery entitled ‘Terror’ and Mark Heberle’s A Trauma Artist: Tim O’Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam, focusing specifically on its introductory chapter ‘The Fiction of Vietnam’ and chapters One ‘Fabricating Trauma’, Two ‘A Bad War’ and Seven ‘The People We Kill’. I will also refer to articles such as Timothy Lustig’s ‘‘Moments of Punctuation’: Metonymy and Ellipsis in Tim O’Brien’, Timothy Melley’s ‘Postmodern Amnesia: Trauma and Forgetting in Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods’ and Kalí Tal’s ‘Speaking the Language of Pain: Vietnam War Literature in the Context of a Literature of Trauma’ in Fourteen Landing Zones: Approaches to Vietnam War Literature. These texts are useful because each of them look in detail at O’Brien’s exploration of the traumatised mind and his postmodernist or experimental representation of it.
In Chapter Two of the thesis, I will discuss House of Leaves and the ways in which it not only engages with but also undermines the trauma theories I introduced in the first chapter. The articles I will look at here include Katherine Cox’s ‘What Has Made Me? Locating Mother in the Textual Labyrinth of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves’, Katherine N. Hayles’ ‘Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves’ in addition to an interview with Danielewski conducted by Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory entitled ‘Haunted House: An Interview with Mark Z. Danielewski’ because each of these explores traumatic memory and repression in Danielewski’s text. In addition, I will draw upon Susannah Radstone’s ‘Trauma Theory: Contexts, Politics, Ethics’. This text is essential to my discussion on how Danielewski challenges popular conceptions of trauma because Radstone examines the unreliability of trauma theory.
In this chapter, I will also look at how Danielewski represents the trauma of postmodernism. For this, I will draw upon Linda Hutcheon’s A Poetics of Postmodernism as well as Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge for his discussion of the ‘incredulity towards metanarratives’ (Lyotard xxxiv) and undermining of previously held certainties that characterises the postmodern condition. I will refer to these texts again in the next chapter when I am discussing the representation of postmodern trauma in Twin Peaks.
In Chapter Three of the thesis, I will discuss Twin Peaks and the ways in which the trauma theories I outlined in Chapter One appear in this television series and are literalised. For this chapter, I will consult Randi Davenport’s article ‘The Knowing Spectator of Twin Peaks: Culture, Feminism, and Family Violence’ for its analysis of Twin Peaks’ representation of child abuse, Michel Chion’s David Lynch for its examination of the repetition of the series’ central crime and Sheli Ayers’ essay ‘Twin Peaks, Weak Language and the Resurrection of Affect’ from Erica Sheen and Annette Davison’s The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams for its discussion of the doubling of the series’ murderer. For further discussion of these topics, I will also refer to a number of essays in David Lavery’s Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. In addition to Lavery’s introductory chapter ‘The Semiotics of Cobbler: Twin Peaks’ Interpretive Community’, the essays I will refer to include Christy Desmet’s ‘The Canonization of Laura Palmer’, Diana Hume George’s ‘Lynching Women: A Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks’, Alice Kuzniar’s ‘Double Talk in Twin Peaks’, Martha Nochimson’s ‘Desire Under the Douglas Firs: Entering the Body of Reality in Twin Peaks’, Diane Stevenson’s ‘Family Romance, Family Violence, and the Fantastic in Twin Peaks’ and J. P. Telotte’s ‘The Dis-order of Things in Twin Peaks’.
Regarding my use of IT for the thesis, I will access all articles from the Boole Library website, JSTOR and Project Muse.
Ayers, Sheli. ‘Twin Peaks, Weak Language and the Ressurrection of Affect.’ The Cinema of David Lynch: American Dreams. Eds. Erica Sheen and Annette Davison. London: Wallflower Press, 2004. 93-106. Print.
Caruth, Cathy. ‘Trauma and Experience.’ Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Ed. Cathy Caruth. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995. 3-12. Print.
Chion, Michel. David Lynch. Trans. Robert Julian. London: BFI, 2006. Print.
Cox, Katherine. ‘What Has Made Me? Locating Mother in the Textual Labyrinth of Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves.’ Critical Survey 18.2 (2006): 4-15. Print.
Danielewski, Mark Z. ‘Haunted House: An Interview with Mark Z. Danielewski.’ Conducted by Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory. Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 44.2 (2003): 99-135. Print.
Danielewski, Mark Z. House of Leaves. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Print.
Davenport, Randi. ‘The Knowing Spectator of Twin Peaks: Culture, Feminism, and Family Violence.’ Literature Film Quarterly 4 (1993): 255-259. Print.
Desmet, Christy. ‘The Canonization of Laura Palmer.’ Full of Secrets: Critical Approaches to Twin Peaks. Ed. David Lavery. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1995. 93-108. Print.
Felman, Shoshana. ‘Education and Crisis, or the Vicissitudes of Teaching.’ Caruth 13-60.
Gibbs, Alan. Contemporary American Trauma Narratives. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014. Print.
Hayles, Katherine N. ‘Saving the Subject: Remediation in House of Leaves.’ American Literature 74.4 (2002): 779-806. Print.
Heberle, Mark. A Trauma Artist: Tim O’Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2001. Print.
Herman, Judith. Trauma and Recovery. New York: BasicBooks, 1997. Print.
Hume George, Diana. ‘Lynching Women: A Feminist Reading of Twin Peaks.’ Lavery 109-119.
Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism. London: Routledge, 2002. Print.
Kuzniar, Alice. ‘Double Talk in Twin Peaks.’ Lavery 120-129.
Lavery, David. ‘Introduction: The Semiotics of Cobbler: Twin Peaks’ Interpretive Community.’ Lavery 1-21.
Lustig, Timothy. ‘‘Moments of Punctuation’: Metonymy and Ellipsis in Tim O’Brien.’ The Yearbook of English Studies 31 (2001): 74-92. Print.
Lyotard, Jean-François. The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1983. Print.
Melley, Timothy. ‘Postmodern Amnesia: Trauma and Forgetting in Tim O’Brien’s In the Lake of the Woods.’ Contemporary Literature 44:1 (2003): 106-131. Print.
Nochimson, Martha. ‘Desire Under the Douglas Firs: Entering the Body of Reality in Twin Peaks.’ Lavery 144-159.
O’Brien, Tim. In the Lake of the Woods. London: Flamingo, 1995. Print.
Radstone, Susannah. ‘Trauma Theory: Contexts, Politics, Ethics.’ Paragraph 30.1 (2007): 9-29. Print.
Stevenson, Diane. ‘Family Romance, Family Violence, and the Fantastic in Twin Peaks.’ Lavery 70-81.
Tal, Kalí. ‘Speaking the Language of Pain: Vietnam War Literature in the Context of a Literature of Trauma.’ Fourteen Landing Zones: Approaches to Vietnam War Literature. Ed. Philip K. Jason. Iowa City: University of Iowa, 1991. 217-50. Print.
Telotte, J. P. ‘The Dis-order of Things in Twin Peaks.’ Lavery 160-172.
Twin Peaks. Prod. David Lynch. CBS Television Distribution, 1990-1991. Television.
Vickroy, Laurie. Trauma and Survival in Contemporary Fiction. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2002. Print.