ENGLI509-21B (HAM)

The Literature of Trauma

30 Points

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Division of Arts Law Psychology & Social Sciences
School of Arts


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: alexandra.cullen@waikato.ac.nz

Placement/WIL Coordinator(s)


Student Representative(s)

Lab Technician(s)


: anne.ferrier-watson@waikato.ac.nz

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Paper Description

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Ever since Freud observed that victims of shell-shock tended to 'repeat the repressed material instead of remembering it’, and turned his attention to uncanny stories in which people seemed fated to repeat their traumatic pasts, literature has been regarded as a key medium in which to explore the dynamics of human suffering.This paper will consider representations of several major types of traumatic experience—world war, the Holocaust, incarceration—using psychoanalytic and historical approaches to frame these efforts to describe the indescribable, and to represent the unrepresentable.
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Paper Structure

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This paper will be taught as a weekly seminar. Each week we will read a set primary text and additional secondary reading/s. Discussion topics will be circulated in advance. Students should come to class familiar with the week's readings, and be prepared to contribute to class discussion.
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Learning Outcomes

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Students who successfully complete the paper should be able to:

  • Understand the complex relationships linking traumatic experience, theories of trauma, and representation.
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • Have a working familiarity with some important theoretical paradigms for English literary studies at graduate level, including psychoanalytic, historicist and Foucauldian approaches.
    Linked to the following assessments:
  • Display reading, writing and critical thinking skills appropriate to the study of English at graduate level.
    Linked to the following assessments:
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The teaching and assessment for this course fulfills the university’s requirement that at least one of the taught papers in your BA(Hons) or MA should foreground research methods appropriate for English literary studies at graduate level. ENGL509 The Literature of Trauma gives you the chance to develop the following research-related skills:

  • Close reading (all coursework and class-based discussion).
  • Devising a research question (short assignment; discussion starters).
  • Identifying relevant sub-components of a research question; establishing a logical sequence of ideas, i.e., structuring an argument (short assignment or close-reading assignment; PowerPoint presentation; essay).
  • Assessing relevant theoretical/critical positions (weekly reading assignments and classroom discussion; PowerPoint presentation; essay).
  • Using the library and appropriate scholarly databases; using appropriate referencing techniques (all written work).
  • Formulating and refining your critical thinking in relation to strong published work in the field (weekly reading assignments; classroom discussion; PowerPoint presentation; essay).
  • Presenting findings (PowerPoint presentation; essay).
  • Refining your thinking and writing in response to editorial input and peer critique (essay re-submission; essay symposium).
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Assessment Components

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The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0. There is no final exam. The final exam makes up 0% of the overall mark.

The internal assessment/exam ratio (as stated in the University Calendar) is 100:0 or 0:0, whichever is more favourable for the student. The final exam makes up either 0% or 0% of the overall mark.

Component DescriptionDue Date TimePercentage of overall markSubmission MethodCompulsory
1. Short assignment: research methods for graduate study
20 Aug 2021
5:30 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
2. PowerPoint Presentation
  • In Class: In Workshop
3. Research essay: draft
1 Oct 2021
5:30 PM
  • Online: Moodle Forum Discussion
4. Research essay: final
29 Oct 2021
5:30 PM
  • Online: Submit through Moodle
5. Discussion starters: 2 @ 5% each
  • Email: Convenor
6. Attendance/participation
  • In Class: In Workshop
Assessment Total:     100    
Failing to complete a compulsory assessment component of a paper will result in an IC grade
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Required and Recommended Readings

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Required Readings

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Alexander Aitken, Gallipoli to the Somme: Recollections of a New Zealand Infantryman (1963) ed. by Alex Calder (Auckland: University of Auckland Press, 2018).

Pat Barker, The Regeneration Trilogy (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996). Any edition. The trilogy comprises Regeneration (1991), The Eye in the Door (1993) and The Ghost Road (1995).

J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace (London: Secker and Warburg, 1999).

Janet Frame, Faces in the Water [1961] (London: The Women’s Press, 1980).

Primo Levi, If This Is A Man [1958](London: Abacus Books, 2004).

Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried [1990] (New York: Broadway Books, 1998).

Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus [1996] (London: Penguin, 2003).

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Recommended Readings

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Trauma: Explorations in Memory, ed. and introd. by Cathy Caruth (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins, 1995).

Art Spiegleman, MetaMaus: A Look Inside a Modern Classic (Book + DVD-R)(New York: Pantheon/Random House, 2011).

Andrew Bennett and Nicholas Royle, This Thing Called Literature: Reading, Writing, Thinking (London and New York: Routledge, 2015).

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Other Resources

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Please note:

  • The English subject librarian is available to help you with your research queries (anne.ferrier-watson@waikato.ac.nz)
  • The internet is not always a reliable source of research material. the Google Scholar search engine is more likely to return more reliable results than a general Google search. Online scholarly databases are likely to return even richer results (eg JSTOR, ProQuest, Project Muse)
  • Avoid using Wikipedia as a reference source. It provides general, low-grade information that will not support research at graduate level.
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Online Support

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There is an online Moodle community for this course. Moodle can be accessed via iWaikato. Lecture presentations, discussion starters, assignment details, important dates and the paper outline are all available from this site.
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Contact hours: three per week during the teaching semester. This 30-point paper comprises 50% of a full-time load at Honours level, so you should aim to spend the equivalent of half a working week on reading, writing and preparation. This corresponds to around 15 hours a week, over and above class time. Students are expected to be actively engaged in reading and coursework over a 17-week semester.
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Linkages to Other Papers

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Restricted papers: ENGL530 (2010), ENGL509

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