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Mucci, C. (2017). Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience edited by Cathy Caruth Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2014; 392 pp; $24.95. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 98(1):262-266.

(2017). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 98(1):262-266

Listening to Trauma: Conversations with Leaders in the Theory and Treatment of Catastrophic Experience edited by Cathy Caruth Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2014; 392 pp; $24.95

Review by:
Clara Mucci

In this extraordinary enterprise, Cathy Caruth achieves what is by definition an impossibility: making familiar the unfamiliar country of trauma, the place of displacement par excellence; the lieu of an ‘erasure’, as Dori Laub would say, where language is at a loss and a new language struggles to be heard, thanks to the construction of a new channel created by the very act and presence of a totally committed listening.

But Caruth is not alone; she is in the precious company of renowned theoreticians, clinicians, and survivors of trauma who take the reader on a walk along a path where it is possible, with the right sensitivity and an extreme ethical commitment, to arrive at the ‘undiscovered country’ of a new political awareness, through the apparently simple act of giving voice to questions going beyond definition and inquiry. As in psychotherapy with survivors, what is needed is ‘simply’ a real presence, an act of listening, a stance that enables an encounter with a true companion, making possible a reconnection with a meaningful web of metaphorization, verbalization, in a word, a reconnection with the unspeakable within and without.

If it is impossible in a few pages to do justice to the intellectual and ethical experience of the volume, I would at least sketch only a few of the radical and fundamental questions Caruth poses in her restless and challenging dialogues with powerful thinkers that constitute the bulk of this volume. Each of the following points is to my mind fundamental, necessary to shed light on the delicate interdisciplinary place in which trauma meets testimony and witnessing meets survival: there is first the relation of trauma to literal survival, and therefore the centrality of death in the experience of survivorship and traumatization.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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