chapter  17
16 Pages

Representing Trauma: e Case for Troubling Images

ByRICHARD READ

Perhaps there are as many means of representing the trauma of violent death aesthetically as there are kinds of death and trauma, but in this essay I will write about the relative merits of only four, which I categorize roughly as transcendence, acting out, denial, and working through. Since it should not be assumed that everyone knows what the psychological process of working through entails, I will start by reiterating the received view that if traumatic experience is not dealt with successfully, then “neurotic” patterns of behavior are likely to appear, together with a continued experience of being retraumatized by memory. us, children, for example, who are still traumatized tend to represent their experience as graphic and exact re-creations of the traumatic incident, while those who have come away from the trauma are more likely to represent it in symbolic form. An adult witness to the collapse of the Twin Towers in what is now glibly referred to in the abbreviation “9/11,” to oer another example, may graphically remember the strange visual beauty of that event, but, in denying the carnage it entailed, may develop otherwise unaccountable physical ailments as substitutes for more a conscious apprehension of its horror. ese are examples in which working through has not occurred.