Les Remords d’Oreste (1862), by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905)
Date: Friday 13 May 2pm
Venue: 11 Bedford Square, room F1
Dr Katherine Ibbett, UCL, ‘Perp talk: Trauma and the triumph of Louis XIV’
Dr Joseph Harris, Royal Holloway, University of London, ‘Tragic trauma? Remorse, repetition and the Orestes myth’
On the face of things, there seems something ineradicably modern about trauma as a concept. Born, as ‘traumatic neurosis’, alongside modern psychoanalysis at the end of the nineteenth century, and revitalised within deconstruction at the close of the twentieth, trauma theory has also been shaped by a series of – it is sometimes supposed – uniquely modern catastrophes: World War I, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Vietnam. So what if anything can trauma theory reveal of other historical periods? Is to speak of trauma in the early modern period, for example, merely to indulge in futile anachronism? Or can trauma theory still teach us something about early modern violence and the mental scars it left behind? More provocatively, perhaps, can early modern texts tell us anything of trauma theory itself: its assumptions, its blind spots, its own unspoken past? In the second of a two-part mini-series on ‘Trauma and the Early Modern’, Katherine Ibbett and Joseph Harris interrogate modern and early-modern discourses on trauma and the tragic.