Trauma, Atrocity, and Suffering in the Literary Fantastic, in Fairy Tales, and in Art and Visual Images

Paula’s research investigated trauma, atrocity, and suffering and how these states were expressed via the literary fantastic, fairy tales, art, and visual images in short fiction. This section will contain a wide range of material that Paula used for her scholarly work in literature and cultural study.

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Bruno, Paula M. “’Es una petición de socorro’: Short Fiction, Fantastic Metafiction, Snapshots of War and Pain.” Metafictional Crossings. Special Issue of Vanderbilt e-Journal of Luso-Hispanic Studies. Vol. 2 (2005): 207-224. Online.

This article considers the photograph against the fantastic and the capacity for expression of trauma via either or both genres. Its critical analysis of select Julio Cortázar and Alfonso Sastre works of short fiction engages with questions regarding the notion of art vs. boundary violation, the role of visual culture as a means of protest, and the techniques of the literary fantastic to express the inexpressible.

Note: This article is an offshoot of my doctoral dissertation and can be accessed here: http://ejournals.library.vanderbilt.edu/lusohispanic/viewarticle.php?id=6&layout=html

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Calvino, Italo, ed. and intro. Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday. Trans. Alfred MacAdam. 2nd edition. New York: Vintage International, 1998. Print.

This is one of the best compilations of fantastic short fiction available. Italo Calvino, famed in his own right for his short fiction and narrative prose, wrote a thorough and excellent introduction to this collection of 19th century classics of the genre. By the time I finished my doctoral dissertation, I was almost able to recite full passages from this book; even now, a decade later, I still love it as much as ever.

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Dawes, James. That the World May Know: Bearing Witness to Atrocity. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2007. Print.

That the World May Know is one story of the contemporary human rights movement. Its premise is that of questioning what one might do following atrocity; to wit: how does the act of bearing witness come into being? How is it possible to prevent further atrocity? This is a small book but it dissects notions of ethical responsibility, right action, witness, and humanitarian fatigue with depth and grace. I used to recommend it to undergraduate students and none of them read it and remained unaffected. This is a thought-provoking and important book.

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Kirmayer, Laurence J., Robert Lemelson, and Mark Barad, eds. Understanding Trauma: Integrating Biological, Clinical, and Cultural Perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print.

The tenets of neuroscience provide the foundation of this book’s exploration of trauma as it is experienced both individually and collectively. Its three sections analyze, respectively: neurobiology and fear; clinical approaches to trauma and PTSD; and cultural contexts surrounding these states. Any and every practitioner who works with anxiety patients and anyone with a strong social conscience and an interest in PTSD and trauma would be well served by reading this book.

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Kleinman, Arthur, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock, eds. Social Suffering. Berkeley: U of California P, 11997.

In a cultural environment in which some will on occasion say—with a straight face, no less—that “pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice” I find this book to be a grounding force. Torture, famine, disease, and tragedy and their effects on the human victims and context constitute the basis of this collection of essays. Recognition of the social aspect of suffering rather than the individual experience of the same informs the writers’ approaches. Of particular interest at this time are two specific articles: “The Pane of Sorrow: Public Uses of Personal Grief in Modern China” by Vera Schwarz, and Tu Wei-Ming’s “Destructive Will and Ideological Holocaust: Maoism as a Source of Social Suffering in China.”

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Leys, Ruth. Trauma: A Genealogy. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 2000. Print.

In this important, substantive history, Ruth Leys outlines and analyses the notion of trauma in its full range of manifestations. Themes include: multiple personality disorders; Freud and his approaches to trauma; battle fatigue and shell shock from the World War II era; neurological considerations; and a pointed analysis of certain Humanities scholarly theories regarding trauma. Leys holds a doctorate in the History of Medicine and her scholarship is impeccable. Familiarity with this book is absolutely crucial for anyone who studies trauma no matter his or her discipline.

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Saviano, Roberto. Beauty and the Inferno. Trans. Oonagh Stransky. Brooklyn: Verso, 2012. Print.

Italian journalist Roberto Saviano is a wanted man. After writing an exposé of the Neapolitan branch of the mafia, the Camorra, Saviano became, like Salmon Rushdie, the object of a death decree. This book of essays continues in Saviano’s systematic, intelligent, and compelling voice. From depictions of his conversation with Rushdie to his righteous indignation against the bribery, corruption, and law breaking that are shredding the fabric of Italian society in the South, this collection offers much food for thought. Saviano is a brave and dedicated journalist and one cannot help but hope for his survival but, sadly, feel pessimistic about his chances. Even if he does survive, can he really spend the rest of his days living in hotels and protected by bodyguards?

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