In the 1970s, veterans, activists and psychiatrists were hard at work getting the disorder that came to be called post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) included in the upcoming edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III. During the same period, feminists were building a successful anti-rape movement that crucially insisted that rape is a form of violence.
On Feb. 15, Sally Bachner, assistant professor of English, spoke on “Rape Trauma, Combat Trauma, and the Making of PTSD: Feminist Fiction in the 1970s” during the Center for the John E. Sawyer Spring Lecture Series on War.
Bachner proposed that while both of these groups sought to bring suffering – of combat veterans and rape victims, respectively – into speech, many feminist novelists of this period instead turn to the figure of the soldier to figure rape as unspeakable. PTSD functions in these texts as a technology for figuring what was initially conceived of as suppressed speech about violence against women as a putatively “unspeakable” trauma.
Bachner, who is currently completing a book on violence in contemporary American fiction titled, The Prestige of Violence: American Fiction, 1962-2002, is among a dozen guests speaking in CHUM’s ongoing lecture series. Past topics this spring include robots and war, the war between international law and politics, U.S. foreign policy with Iraq and Afghanistan and war and the nation. Most recently, Trevor Paglen, artist and