Sexual trauma and the post-traumatic (re)formation of identity
Perkins, Jessica Aimee Saltzberg
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This thesis explores the representation of trauma in The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee and selected writings and performances of Karen Finley. While all three create fictionalized spaces for the exploration of the myriad ways trauma can affect an individual, they also act as vehicles for bearing witness to and working through trauma. The fracturing and near destruction of identity is central to this project as it is central to the works discussed within. Trauma cannot help but have a devastating impact on the identity of the traumatized individual and this impact is represented and acted out within the novels and performances discussed. Utilizing scholarship on trauma and literary and art criticism I show how methods often employed by trauma victims can be represented and maneuvered in fiction and performance including trauma induced damage to identity. In addition to arguing that identity is at stake for the trauma victim within these representations, this thesis also argues that trauma is not simple or singular. To participate in an exploration of the trauma within a work means to explore the many events surrounding the trauma and the multiple ways an individual or group has been traumatized.