Trauma Cinema focuses on a new breed of documentary films and videos that adopt catastrophe as their subject matter and trauma as their aesthetic. Incorporating oral testimony, home-movie footage, and documentary reenactment, these documentaries express the havoc trauma wreaks on history and memory. Janet Walker uses incest and the Holocaust as a double thematic focus and fiction films as a point of comparison. Her astute and original examination considers the Hollywood classic Kings Row and the television movie Sybil in relation to vanguard nonfiction works, including Errol Morris's Mr. Death, Lynn Hershman's video diaries, and the chilling genealogy of incest, Just, Melvin.
Both incest and the Holocaust have also been featured in contemporary psychological literature on trauma and memory. The author employs theories of post traumatic stress disorder and histories of the so-called memory wars to illuminate the amnesias, fantasies, and mistakes in memory that must be taken into account, along with corroborated evidence, if we are to understand how personal and public historical meaning is made.
Janet Walker’s engrossing narrative demonstrates that the past does not come down to us purely and simply through eyewitness accounts and tangible artifacts. Her incisive analysis exposes the frailty of memory in the face of disquieting events while her joint consideration of trauma cinema and psychological theorizing radically reconstructs the roadblocks at the intersection of catastrophe, memory, and historical representation.
PART I. THE TRAUMATIC PARADOX
Chapter 1. Catastrophe, Representation, and the Vicissitudes of Memory
PART II. PERSONAL MEMORY: THE CASE OF INCEST
Chapter 2. The Excision of Incest from Classical Hollywood Cinema:
Kings Row and Freud
Chapter 3. Incest on Television and the Burden of Proof:
Sybil; Shattered Trust: The Shari Karney Story; Liar, Liar; and Divided Memories
Chapter 4. Strange Bedfellows—Incest in Trauma Documentaries:
Daughter Rite; Some Nudity Required; the Electronic Diary Series; Just, Melvin; and Capturing the Friedmans
PART III. THE PERSONAL IS PUBLIC HISTORICAL: (AUTO)BIOGRAPHIES OF THE HOLOCAUST
Chapter 5. The Last Days Is Not Shoah—Experiments in Holocaust Representation:
The March and Tak for Alt
Chapter 6. Disremembering the Holocaust:
Everything’s for You, Second Generation Video, and Mr. Death
Janet Walker is Professor of Film Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she is also affiliated with the Women's Studies Program. Her other books as author or editor are Couching Resistance: Women, Film, and Psychoanalytic Psychiatry (1993), Feminism and Documentary (with Diane Waldman, 1999), and Westerns: Films through History (2001).
"A well-researched, elegantly written and original book. Walker offers extremely nuanced and insightful readings that call on her expertise as film historian, feminist theorist and psychoanalytic scholar. The breadth of the book's reach will expand the vernacular of documentary studies in a most significant way."—Michael Renov, author of The Subject of Documentary