cover image Trauma: A Genealogy

Trauma: A Genealogy

Ruth Leys. University of Chicago Press, $24 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-226-47766-4

Can trauma really be relived or is the quality of memory such that it is impossible to repeat experience except by a sort of theatrical simulation? What actually happens in therapy in which repressed experiences surface, and does it really matter whether the remembered trauma is ""true"" as long as the narrative account serves its purpose? Although she provides no answers to these and other longstanding questions, Leys's groundbreaking book provides a framework in which to consider the conflicts that, since the early 20th century, have beset theorists and clinicians involved in the treatment of trauma victims. Not for the intellectually timid, this book moves through psychoanalytic theory from Freud and Ferenczi to Lacan, encompassing the treatment of trauma victims from three wars and ending with a scathing critique of the newer neurobiologically influenced theories of Cathy Caruth and Besel A. Van der Kolk. This genealogy does not aim to tie together threads of similar ideology, but instead points out where trauma theory seems to fall into a crevasse and implode. It is impossible to read this book without participating in Leys's unboundaried thinking, which, through a process of constant synthesis and leaps of connection, stretches the mind. (June)