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It may be said that every trauma is two traumas or ten thousand-depending on the number of people involved. How one experiences and reacts to an event is unique and depends largely on one’s direct or indirect positioning, personal psychic history, and individual memories. But equally important to the experience of trauma are the broader political and cultural contexts within which a catastrophe takes place and how it is “managed” by institutional forces, including the media.

In Trauma Culture, E. Ann Kaplan explores the relationship between the impact of trauma on individuals and on entire cultures and nations. Arguing that humans possess a compelling need to draw meaning from personal experience and to communicate what happens to others, she examines the artistic, literary, and cinematic forms that are often used to bridge the individual and collective experience. A number of case studies, including Sigmund Freud’s Moses and Monotheism, Marguerite Duras’ La Douleur, Sarah Kofman’s Rue Ordener, Rue Labat, Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound, and Tracey Moffatt’s Night Cries, reveal how empathy can be fostered without the sensationalistic element that typifies the media.

From World War II to 9/11, this passionate study eloquently navigates the contentious debates surrounding trauma theory and persuasively advocates the responsible sharing and translating of catastrophe.

Order on Amazon | Rutgers University Press | IndieBound.org | Barnes & Noble

Order from Amazon | Rutgers University Press | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound.org

Each month brings new scientific findings that demonstrate the ways in which human activities, from resource extraction to carbon emissions, are doing unprecedented, perhaps irreparable damage to our world. As we hear these climate change reports and their predictions for the future of Earth, many of us feel a sickening sense of déjà vu, as though we have already seen the sad outcome to this story.

Drawing from recent scholarship that analyzes climate change as a form of “slow violence” that humans are inflicting on the environment, Climate Trauma theorizes that such violence is accompanied by its own psychological condition, what its author terms “Pretraumatic Stress Disorder.” Examining a variety of films that imagine a dystopian future, renowned media scholar E. Ann Kaplan considers how the increasing ubiquity of these works has exacerbated our sense of impending dread. But she also explores ways these films might help us productively engage with our anxieties, giving us a seemingly prophetic glimpse of the terrifying future selves we might still work to avoid becoming.

Examining dystopian classics like Soylent Green alongside more recent examples like The Book of Eli, Climate Trauma also stretches the limits of the genre to include features such as Blindness, The Happening, Take Shelter, and a number of documentaries on climate change. These eclectic texts allow Kaplan to outline the typical blind-spots of the genre, which rarely depicts climate catastrophe from the vantage point of women or minorities. Lucidly synthesizing cutting-edge research in media studies, psychoanalytic theory, and environmental science, Climate Trauma provides us with the tools we need to extract something useful from our nightmares of a catastrophic future.

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