Functioning in the Symbolic

In class, we spent most of our time talking about how gaps work in the text in relation to trauma theory.  In Julianne’s post we discussed in class, she mentions that there is a gap surrounding Zinnia’s scar on her face.  In “Trauma: Theory,” the idea of PTSD, a psychological disorder, is introduced alongside literary analysis: “Indeed, 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 — so that psychoanalysis and medically oriented psychiatry, sociology, history, and even literature all seem to be called upon to explain, to cure, or to show why it is that we can no longer simply explain or simply cure” (334).  What I understood from this is that, although it is a medical issue, literature is capable of explaining, expressing, or conveying the experience/aftermath of trauma.  One of the psychological symptoms of PTSD is memory loss, or gaps surrounding certain events.  Because literature not only reflects but more importantly embodies trauma, it makes sense that this novel gives these characters (and the story) gaps.  Neither Zinnia nor Ginny explain how the scar came to be, signaling that there is this loss of a specific memory, creating a gap.

 

Beyond this, however, is the larger theme of trauma existing symbolically.  In class, we also discussed the problem with the witness.  Because trauma can only be experienced by the victim, there is a gap between the victim and the witness.  Kind One, then, is unable to reproduce the experience of trauma, but it is able to symbolically approach it, because “while trauma may belong to the register of the real, it functions in the symbolic.  The symbolic, that is, is the place where traumatic repetition plays itself out” (348).  These gaps do symbolize trauma.  Another topic of discussion in class was that trauma is only realized after the event has happened.  So Ginny’s seemingly passive aggressions are written this way to symbolize the disconnect between her emotions at the time and her guilt later (another gap!).  Once Linus is dead, we only just begin to understand Ginny’s feelings about what she has done, suggesting that there are more gaps and repressions that are not being dealt with.  

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