Traumatic Reliving in History, Literature and Film

Author(s) : Rudolph Binion

Traumatic Reliving in History, Literature and Film

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Traumatic Reliving in History, Literature, and Film explores an intriguing facet of human behavior never yet examined in its own right - an individual or a group may contrive, unawares, to repeat a half-forgotten traumatic experience in disguise. Such reliving has shaped major careers and large-scale events throughout history. Insight into it is therefore vital for understanding historic causation past and present. Traumatic Reliving has also proliferated in literature since antiquity and lately in film as well, indicating its tacit acceptance as a piece of life by the reading and movie-going public. This book examines the evidence of history, literature, and film on how this irrational behavioral mechanism works.

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The book begins with a brief introduction situating the reliving of trauma in the context of the varieties of reliving that pervade the natural and human worlds. There follows a discussion of psychoanalytic, psychiatric, and trauma theories. Next, the author draws on his own and others' monographic research on traumatic reliving by historic individuals and groups in an effort to define its normal course and typical features. This summary overview is followed by a new, detailed case study of the traumatic fall of the Third French Republic as it was relived through the fall of the Fourth.

Moving from history to literature, an examination of six representative classics from Euripides to Ibsen shows that the motif of traumatic reliving is recurrent in fiction over the centuries, albeit confined to individual reliving. Finally, to cinema, which, with its quick cuts and flashbacks, is uniquely well suited to convey the experience of traumatic reliving and, where again, individual reliving predominates. The basic pattern on screen and in literature closely parallels that found in history.

This book is a first step in an exciting new direction of research and analysis.

About the Author(s)

Rudolph Binion was educated at Columbia University and the University of Paris. He served two years in the United States Army and worked three years in demographic statistics at Unesco (Paris) before taking a doctorate in History at Columbia in 1958. In 1967 he moved to Brandeis University, where he has remained ever since except for a visiting professorship at the Collège de France (Paris) in 1980. He has published ten books and some fifty scholarly articles in European and American political, social, and demographic history, biography, art, and literature including a monumental psychobiography of the prodigious Russo- German woman of letters Lou Andreas-Salomé, Frau Lou in 1968.

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