International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

Trauma and World Literature

Posted 1 July 2008 in StressPoints by ISTSS

Pat Barker’s Regeneration, a trilogy of novels about the psychological effects of combat in WWI told from multiple perspectives, including those of soldiers, therapists and family, is as good an example of the value of art in our work as we could hope to find (we have been assigning the first volume to our interns/residents). In the trilogy, Barker includes compelling fictional portraits of Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, the psychiatrist W. H. Rivers and even Lewis Carroll.
One of many illustrative passages:
Rivers let him continue. This had been Prior’s attitude through out the three weeks they’d spent trying to recover his memories of France. He seemed to be saying, ‘All right. You can make me dredge up the horrors, you can make me remember the deaths, but you will never make me feel.’ Rivers tried to break down the detachment, to get to the emotion, but he knew that, confronted with the same task, he would have tackled it in the exactly same way as Prior. (p.79)
Barker, P. (1991). Regeneration. Plume: New York.

ISTSS members are invited to share a favorite passage or quote from literature that might not be well known, but which offers insight about the psychological effects of trauma or path of healing.