Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
AN ABSTRACT OF THE DISSERTATION OF ASHLEY GREEN, for the Doctor of Philosophy degree in English, presented on November 5, 2012, at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. TITLE: TRAUMA INSCRIBED ON THE BODY IN PAT BARKER'S REGENERATION TRILOGY MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Michael Molino In the nineties, British writer, Pat Barker, completed a sequence of novels entitled The Regeneration Trilogy in which she set to the task of understanding trauma in relation to our notions, or mis-notions rather, of WWI. In this trilogy, the author does not simply engage a discussion of the past through the integration of historical figures, personal recordings, and accurate accounts of society and the Western Front during 1917-1918; but through the complexity of her characters' personalities and lives a rather comprehensive evaluation of trauma and its effects on the subject emerges. In the initial book in her sequence, Regeneration, Barker is specifically interested in the ways in which the physical symptoms of war neurosis communicate the nature of an internal crisis, and how those very same manifestations enlighten our understanding of the obstacles of traumatic communication. Dr. Rivers's role as a therapist who endorses the "Talking Cure" establishes language as the key element to the process recovery, proposing, then, it is through a dialectical relationship that the wound[ed] can speak; language, for Barker, is the link reconnecting individuals to their trauma, subjects to their past and present selves, and, ultimately, the soul to its body. It is really through the process of integrating history and fiction that the author is able to evaluate the full breadth of Great Britain's traumatization during WWI. As Barker moves through her trilogy, her observations of trauma increase in scope as Dr. Rivers moves from Craiglockhart, Scotland, ultimately, to London working at the Empire Hospital with Dr. Henry Head. Initially, Dr. Rivers treats specifically shell-shocked soldiers but by The Eye in the Door, Rivers begins treating officers of a different branch, pilots of the Royal Flying Corps; and by the final book in the sequence, The Ghost Road, the doctor applies his clinical theories to both physically and emotionally damaged patients. In direct relation to Dr. Rivers's greater perspective, Barker also brings to light her observations of total traumatization by depicting her female characters as subverted elements of society and locales of crisis. In addition, Barker represents culture as one that also displays obvious clues of violence and traumatization. Ultimately, Barker does all this to make a comprehensive observation of trauma: the physical always reveals evidence of its experience. Through reading the material of -- and written on the body--we can only begin to understand fully the complex nature of trauma and the way in which it has entirely disrupted, yet composed our historical identities.
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