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Wounds and Words

Childhood and Family Trauma in Romantic and Postmodern Fiction

Christa Schönfelder


Trauma has become a hotly contested topic in literary studies. But interest in trauma is not new; its roots extend to the Romantic period, when novelists and the first psychiatrists influenced each others' investigations of the »wounded mind«. This book looks back to these early attempts to understand trauma, reading a selection of Romantic novels in dialogue with Romantic and contemporary psychiatry. It then carries that dialogue forward to postmodern fiction, examining further how empirical approaches can deepen our theorizations of trauma. Within an interdisciplinary framework, this study reveals fresh insights into the poetics, politics, and ethics of trauma fiction.


Christa Schönfelder teaches English literature at the University of Zurich. Her research interests include Romanticism, postmodern fiction, trauma theory, and gender studies.


  • Cover
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction: Towards a Reconceptualization of Trauma
  • Chapter One: Theorizing Trauma. Romantic and Postmodern Perspectives on Mental Wounds
  • Chapter Two: The “Wounded Mind”. Feminism, Trauma, and Self-Narration in Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman
  • Chapter Three: Anatomizing the “Demons of Hatred”.Traumatic Loss and Mental Illness in William Godwin’s Mandeville
  • Chapter Four: A Tragedy of Incest. Trauma, Identity, and Performativity in Mary Shelley’s Mathilda
  • Chapter Five: Polluted Daughters. Incestuous Abuse and the Postmodern Tragic in Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres
  • Chapter Six: Inheriting Trauma. Family Bonds and Memory Ties in Anne Michaels’s Fugitive Pieces
  • Chapter Seven: The Body of Evidence. Family History, Guilt, and Recovery in Trezza Azzopardi’s The Hiding Place
  • Conclusion
  • Works Cited

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