Friday, April 23, 2010

from Branches Without Leaves


Cathy Caruth explains that the traumatic neurosis is “not the reaction to any horrible event but, rather, the peculiar, and perplexing experience of survival” and asks the question “what does it mean to survive?”

The pathology or neurosis is not in the original event, but in the haunting repetition of the image or event that takes hold of the traumatized in different manifestations, and for which there may be no understanding. The obviously traumatic event for both family and friends of victims, and the general American public is 9/11, into which there is no real access, nor does it seem possible to represent. Alongside a photo of a pile of stretchers made of wood for transporting rescued victims (or bodies) from the Trade Center wreckage, Rankine writes, “The language of description competes with the dead in the air” (82). What does it mean to survive? Caruth explains, “contemporary trauma” involves “a crisis of truth” that “extends beyond the question of individual cure and asks how we in this era can have access to our own historical experience, to a history that is in its immediacy a crisis to whose truth there is no simple access” (Trauma 6). But the stretchers were, for the most part, unnecessary. There were no bodies. At first, some few survivors of the event itself, and later, family, friends, rescue workers who experienced the event only in its aftermath, and through the loss incurred.

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