Trauma and Language

Authored by: Dana Amir

The Routledge International Handbook of Psychoanalysis and Philosophy

Print publication date:  November  2022
Online publication date:  November  2022

Print ISBN: 9780367276454
eBook ISBN: 9780429297076
Adobe ISBN:


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The chapter focuses on the link between trauma and language from three different angles. The first section focuses on the language of the victim, tracing four modes of traumatic testimony which are distinguished from one another in the degree of the psychic motility they succeed to form in relation to traumatic memories. The second section focuses on the language of the perpetrator, describing the phenomenon of “screen confessions”: voluntary confessional texts produced by perpetrators out of their own free will, which share the main characteristic of subtly and unconsciously subverting themselves. The notion of “screen confessions” (which was chosen to allude to Freud’s “screen memories”) refers not to memory itself but to how it is construed in language. Omitted from this kind of confession are not the concrete facts, but their meaning. Distortion or error does not inhere in the factual details but in the syntax that interferes in different ways with the original (true) utterance, taking away its meaning even if all of its components are accurate and correct. These two sections are followed by a third section which deals with the unbearable tension between the language of the victim and the language of the perpetrator, and their malignant interrelations.

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