McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
This dissertation explores what it means to bear witness to trauma at the limits of intelligibility. Faced by survivor testimony, clinical psychology finds itself caught in a double-bind between the lucidity of knowledge and the enigmatic horror of traumatic suffering. Despite this double-bind, bearing witness has nevertheless been guided by a promise that assumes an inherent intelligibility to survivor testimony and traumatic experience. Performing an analysis of intelligibility reveals that such an approach to witnessing privileges the structures of presence and immanence. A particular reading of the book of Job reveals an accusation: that clinical psychology participates in theodicy by reducing the excess of traumatic suffering to the Law. Given that this accusation rests on a disturbance that breaks with the structures of intelligibility, we continue to explore the concept of the aporia as well as its deconstructive implications for approaching survivor testimony. Turning to the heroic interpretations of traumatic death and suffering offered by existential psychology, I argue that theodicy does indeed persist in our modern interpretations of traumatic suffering. Drawing on Levinas's analysis of pain, suffering, and death, we encounter the disastrous elements of trauma that reveal radical limits to intelligibility, demanding a rethinking of what it means to bear witness. Finally, the dissertation offers what it means to bear witness through the experience of tears, and of fear and trembling.
Hall, T. (2015). Trauma at the Limit: Bearing Witness to the Impossible of Survivor Testimony (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/619