An important area of contemporary British fiction that has come to the fore over the last 30 years relates to trauma and traumatic experience. This follows the development of trauma theory with writers such as Cathy Caruth, Dominic LaCapra, Anne Whitehead, Roger Luckhurst, Mark Seltzer and Philip Tew engaging in the debates. Some critics have gone as far as to suggest that trauma is in fact one of the dominating conditions of the twentieth century, referring specifically to the two world wars, the Holocaust, and other examples of social relationships in which violence has been an integral part of maintaining power over groups or individuals. In this context, narrative fiction has played an important role in recording or coming to terms with these traumatic events and processes. Laurie Vickroy, for example, has claimed that Trauma narratives are personalized responses to this century’s emerging awareness of the catastrophic effects of war, poverty, colonization, and domestic abuse on the individual subject’. This has continued into the twenty-first century and much interest in this field has coalesced around the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in September 2001, to the extent that the post-9/11 novel has become a category not only of American literature but also of British fiction. In addition to discussion of fiction that addresses trauma in relation to specific collective and individual experiences, and the focus on 9/11 fiction and criticism, this chapter will survey some important theories of trauma narratives (Caruth, LaCapra, Derrida) and explore the concepts of trauma culture (Luckhurst) and the traumatological (Tew) as they relate to contemporary British fiction.
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Dr. Nick Bentley
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