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Summers, F. (2015). Mended by the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma, by Sophia Richman, Routledge, London, 2014, 268pp.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 75(1):110-112.
(2015). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 75(1):110-112
Mended by the Muse: Creative Transformations of Trauma, by Sophia Richman, Routledge, London, 2014, 268pp.
Review by: Frank Summers, Ph.D., ABPP
This volume by Sophia Richman adds immeasurably to the knowledge and theory of the illusive relationship between trauma and artistic creation. Dr. Richman's compelling volume explores in depth the experiences of trauma victims who employed the creative process to overcome traumatic assaults on their psyches. This rich volume includes the stories of victims of many different forms of trauma, such as death, loss of loved ones, sexual, physical, and emotional violence, political persecution, concentration camp incarceration, persecution of previous generations, and physical injury and illness. For this reason alone the book would be valuable reading, but it serves two more ambitious purposes. Richman's book sheds a great deal of light on the process by which traumatic experiences are integrated and mastered by artistic creation, and, in this process, debunks much conventional wisdom about the effects of trauma.
With powerfully moving prose, Richman depicts the stories of an exceptionally wide spectrum of creative individuals: visual artists, poets, novelists, filmmakers, dancers, choreographers, a set designer, and memoir writers. Her data are a combination of interviews she conducted, autobiographical writings, and other published material. Her careful attention to the experience of trauma victims, whether gleaned through personal contact or other sources, allows her to discredit convincingly the commonly held belief that those who suffer massive trauma, such as concentration camp survivors, inevitably experience break down in such fundamental abilities as the capacity to empathize, communicate, symbolize, integrate, and formulate narratively.
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