On “The (Im)possibility of a Theoretical Discourse on Trauma”

Let me begin by admitting that this article on trauma theory has left me reeling; I feel as though, even in marking up the pages, many of the ideas that Toremans offers have yet to be fully digested and understood (and perhaps won’t be until the class meets for discussion). However, an idea that really caught my attention early on was that “the more we satisfactorily locate and classify the symptoms of PTSD, the more we seem to have dislocated the boundaries of our modes of understanding…[with all disciplines] called upon to explain, to cure, or to show why it is that we can no longer simply explain or cure (334)”. The more I thought about it, the more true this seemed – in apprehending new knowledge that complicates or is contradictory to previous beliefs, we are forced to re-evaluate them in a different light and determine their validity. Trauma, as a complex and subjective experience, is already difficult to study, and yet depending on the breakthroughs we make in doing so, there is a chance that we may be setting ourselves back a bit in having to discard old theories – or,  as Toremans points out, non-theories. For “[n]othing can overcome the resistance to theory since theory is itself this resistance (336); yet De Man, according to Toremans, manages to “narrativize trauma, to perform the (im)possibility of a theoretical discourse on trauma (339)”.

In short, from what I understand, to develop a concise theory and discourse on trauma and trauma narrative is impossible, for developing said theories is to accept current values as truths which have the potential to create setbacks in understanding trauma on deeper levels. However, literature in itself is a type of discourse which, in a roundabout way, provides a rhetoric of understanding not only for those studying trauma, but also those with potential to gain understanding without realizing it.


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