Trauma, Culture, Transformation

HUM4607: Trauma, Culture, Transformation

4 Advanced Liberal Arts credits

What is trauma and how does it impact individuals and societies? The word comes to us from the Greek "wound," and so it has come to mean a lasting injury made by a violent or startling event that penetrates a person's psychic boundary system. The difference between a wound and a traumatic wound is that the latter does not heal; rather, it results in post-traumatic stress, which in turn creates cycles of repetition of uncannily similar events until the event has been "worked through." While the term is largely attributed to Sigmund Freud's 19th and early 20th century work, in fact many of his sources came from classical Greek texts, meaning the concept and experience of trauma have been around for centuries.

In the past, knowledge about trauma came predominantly from psychoanalysis; to a lesser extent, literary theory has explored how cultural texts reflect phenomena related to trauma such as repetition, disruptions of time and temporality, and fragmented points of view. Post-Traumatic Stress was a chronic, cyclical dis-ease with devastating consequences. In the past decade, however, neuroscientists have exponentially advanced our understanding of trauma and its relation to our bodies, not just our minds, and theorists have shown how trauma is also a cultural phenomenon, transmitted from one generation to the next. Most importantly, this new research also shows proven pathways to transformation and healing-pathways that also correspond to collective movements for healing our world.

Starting with Freud's foundational work and the classical texts that inspired him, we will study how cultural texts have represented both traumatic stress and methods for its healing. From there, we move quickly to study new developments in the understanding of trauma and post-traumatic stress, including methods of healing and transcending traumatic repetition that have gained traction in broader change-making contexts. We will conclude our study by exploring the concept of Transformational Literacy operating at the MIT Presencing Institute, and how the notion of collective trauma invites collective healing responses as together we bring "the emergent future" into being.

Prerequisites: Any Combination of 2 Intermediate liberal arts (HSS, LTA, CSP)

  • Program: Undergraduate
  • Division: Arts and Humanities
  • Level: Advanced Liberal Arts 4600 Requirement (UGrad),Advanced Elective (UGrad),Advanced Liberal Arts (UGrad)
  • Course Number: HUM4607
  • Number of Credits: 4