A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam by Mark A. Heberle

By Mark A. Heberle

A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his personal traumatization in the course of the struggle in Vietnam as a unending fiction that mockingly "recovers" own adventure by means of either recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's occupation as a author in the course of the prisms of post-traumatic pressure disease, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World conflict II American political uncertainties and public violence.

Based on contemporary conversations with O'Brien, formerly released interviews, and new readings of all his works via 1999, this publication is the 1st examine to pay attention to the function and illustration of trauma because the crucial concentration of all O'Brien's works, no matter if positioned in Vietnam, in post-Vietnam the United States, or within the mind's eye of protagonists suspended among the 2. via doing so, Heberle redefines O'Brien as an immense U.S. author of the overdue 20th century whose representations of self-damaging reports and narratives of restoration signify not just the battle in Vietnam but in addition relationships among fathers and sons and males and females within the post-traumatic tradition of the modern United States.

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Extra info for A Trauma Artist: Tim O'Brien and the Fiction of Vietnam

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The common expressions of national posttraumatic pathology, on the other hand, have been denial and amnesia or compensatory fantasy. Such symptoms of unresolved trauma were particularly evident in postwar American political mythmaking. While other veterans returned individually and anonymously, most of them to public indifference or embarrassment, some to public hostility, the release of elite officer POWs by Hanoi in 1973 occasioned a well-orchestrated public celebration for these heroic victims (Howes 7–9).

The first of them, Ehrhart’s straight- 20 FA B R I C AT I N G TR AU MA forward battlefield narrative Vietnam–Perkasie, was published relatively late (1983), after seven volumes of poetry. It represents the author as a flagwaving seventeen-year-old Marine volunteer from Perkasie, Pennsylvania, pursuing dreams of heroism in Viet Nam and finding only meaningless violence punctuated by the loss of comrades and the increasing callousness of himself and those who survived. Passing Time (1986) interweaves Ehrhart’s final year in the Marines after returning from Viet Nam, his experiences as a student-veteran at Swarthmore College, his passionate involvement with Vietnam Veterans Against the War, and a period of aimless wandering and traveling after graduation, culminating in his service as a deckhand on an American oil tanker in 1974.

Work with Vietnam veterans has mutually benefited study of other victims of PTSD, and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, founded in 1985, and its Journal of Traumatic Stress (first published in 1987) are devoted to advancing work in the field. Today, PTSD is recognized as a disorder not limited to those who have survived combat only to be psychologically harmed by it. It also includes victims of industrial accidents and natural and manmade disasters; of rape, incest, and spousal abuse; and of violent crime; survivors of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Holocaust; former political prisoners or POWs; and victims of torture.

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