Innovative representations of trauma: trauma in popular culture

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Travers, Sean
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University College Cork
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This thesis investigates the representation of trauma in late twentieth- and early twenty-first century popular culture. Dominant cultural trauma theory tends to focus on high cultural avant-garde works. However, more recent studies increasingly examine trauma representation in popular culture. This thesis sets out to add to these studies, uncovering new themes and techniques of trauma representation. I posit a series of original paradigms through which to understand trauma in popular cultural artefacts. Divided into three sections, I will explore three distinct modes of traumatic representation: popular culture’s thematic engagement with postmodern perspectives, competitive narration and perpetrator trauma in video games. The main primary texts examined are Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980), Tatsuya Ishihara’s The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (2006-9), Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992), David Lynch and Mark Frost’s television series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and its prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992), Team Salvato’s Doki Doki Literature Club and Toby Fox’s Undertale. The general position taken is that canonical Western trauma representations since the late twentieth-century tend to be formulaic, whereas more innovative trauma representations can be found in certain popular texts. An important founding principle of this thesis then, is to establish how the selected popular trauma texts both diverge from and correspond with dominant cultural trauma theory and canonical trauma texts.
Trauma , American culture , Japanese culture , Postmodernism , Popular culture
Travers, S. 2019. Innovative representations of trauma: trauma in popular culture. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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