Surviving my dissertation

After my original dissertation idea was determined to be unfeasible (by myself and my dissertation chair), I found myself struggling to find a topic that still fit the spirit of my work.  Ideally, I would use the dissertation to create a theoretical base for my future study into narrative and trauma.  This, however, is much easier said than done.  The truth is that I don’t know how to write a theory without the use of real world applications.  I imagine this has something to do with the way that I value theory as praxis and vice-versa, and, while I am by no means rejecting that belief, it’s making this dissertation thing kind of difficult.  So, I’m trying to determine how, given the resources readily available to me, I can make a significant contribution to the field of trauma studies. (It’s times like these that make me think that I should have gone into psychology.) Here’s what I’m getting so far:

Thought #1: In the struggle to use writing as a way of healing, trauma survivors use unique rhetorical strategies for approaching their trauma.  My sample set would be blogs, discussion forums, and memoirs, which I would examine using a combination of Burkean theories of identification and feminist content analysis.  Using Jeanne Perrault’s idea of feminist autography, I would loosely categorize my samples as such, perhaps even going so far as to include theory within the scope of my research into autography.  Perreault defines autography as “a writing whose effect is to bring into being a ‘self’ that the writer names ‘I,’ but whose parameters and boundaries resist the nomadic” (2)*  While Perreault examines exclusively female-authored texts that have been published in print, I will be exploring mostly self-published blogs.  Also, my focus will be on how the writing brings into being a self that has been formed in response to and in spite of trauma.  I would also be looking into the Burkeian concepts of identification and consubstantiality as strategies for repairing the rift between self and other that is characteristic of trauma.

Thought#2: Focus on traumatic autography as a way of fighting back.  Writing as a way of healing seems too optimistic, as though writing can make the trauma all better, which I do not think is true.  Titles tend to help me focus, so I’d tentatively title this: “Writing/Fighting to Stay Alive: Rhetorical Strategies for Survival” or “Writing/Fighting to Survive: A Rhetorical Theory of Trauma”

Thought#3: [The most ambitious of these and the most difficult to put into concrete terms.]

My dissertation will serve as a basis for future research into memory, trauma, and narration.  By first establishing a methodology based on a synthesis of feminist, psychological, and narrative theory,  I will lay the groundwork for future study of the significance of language in identity formation and the effects of trauma on that process.  For the purposes of this dissertation, I will be taking a small sampling of writing by those who have experienced traumas.  These samples include: single-authored blogs, discussion forums, and memoir.

I want to create a theoretical basis for the argument that trauma is inherently a linguistic issue and that the loss of language is more than a symptom of the trauma; it is the trauma itself.

Okay.  Here’s a start.  Any feedback is appreciated.

*Perreault, Jeanne.  Writing Selves: Contemporary Feminist Autography. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota Press, 1995.

One thought

  1. Okay, feedback. After researching your posts, I have come to the conclusion that your journey is real and heart felt. having scholars who have experienced childhood trauma gives them a perspective others cannot know.

    Yes trauma is very literal, or the left brain is the computer side. If you describe your situation as impossible ad no way to ever heal, the left brain or ego or whatever name you choose, reinforces that statement with as many details and images to make it true. That is why going below the conscious level, where thoughts, words, letters or dialogue can not be understood. The right side of the brain reads numbers as pixels. It does not even comprehend language or consider the last or future. It only sees now, the present. reference Jill Bolte Taylor who during a stroke had her left brain shut down over a 4 hour period.

    He describes being totally right rained as euphoric, unifying and awesome. he could not discern in the shower where the wall ended and her arm began. There was no judgment, no right or wrong, no good or bad, and no failure. Life just was and she was their to experience it.

    trauma dies in the crystal clear awareness of the right brain. Or to put it another way, Trauma can not exist in this minute if I am empty, without thought.

    At any time if a trauma thought arrives, I have the ability to direct my attention to now, and watch the powerless thoughts fade.

    PTSD has an Achilles heal, it is powerless and most of all impermanent. How can you describe myself when I am all my emotions and have a human experience. I am different each part of the day. I am different than I was,5, 10,20,30,or40years ago. If you can learnt direct your attention to your breath for a couple of minutes your dissociation will be curtailed in a major way. The need to stabilize our nervous system by shutting down the cortisol and adrenaline dumps aids healing immensely.

    I believe childhood trauma since it is entwined with our development is the hardest to improve. It takes concerted effort and guts to move forward.

    My belief s that action is needed to heal, both mental and physical. being a former professional athlete, therapist are woefully missing the boat by not using the body to jump start the mind with achievement, flushing of toxins and replenishment of our cortisol.

    happiness is found when the left pre frontal cortexes stimulated per Rick Hanson.

    We need to stop thinking to heal, stop speaking and thinking about our trauma. there are so many common sense moments wit this disorder. The more time you spend dissociating the more PTSD grows. What fires together wires together. Then energy ,blood and time layer to make this trauma grow. Spend time not thinking about our triggers and they start to whither. We ca replace our ego with a new one.

    Why not infuse our true self as our ego. The ego serves us not the other way around. You ca be happy and be below your ego, where things and people exist on their own without me having to identify with them. You can be better than you have ever been if you integrate your trauma. I like the definition of integrating is bringing the complete, whole organism into present moment without thought.

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