2007 Research Fair - Honors Abstracts
From Cold War to 9/11: An Analysis of Foreign Policy Doctrine and its Effect on National Security
In the wake of September 11th the American public felt that somehow their government had failed them by being unable to prevent the attacks. Investigations have directed vast amounts of attention to the failures of the fragmented and outdated intelligence network, flawed air security, the under funding of rescue workers, and which terrorist network was responsible, yet there has been considerably less attention directed toward the deeper rooted reasons for these failures and virtually none directed at the reasons behind the State Department, Congress, and the Department of Defense's lack of desire to consider Osama Bin Ladin a serious threat. The purpose of this paper is to assert that the US was unprepared to critically consider the possibility of a major terrorist attack on its soil prior to 9/11 due to stagnant foreign policy doctrines related to the cold war and of isolationism in regards to terrorist acts.
Knowing and Forgetting:
In Shakespeare’s Richard III, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, and Wilfred Owen’s “Strange Meeting,” characters suffering from trauma experience odd, disturbing dreams. Although intrusive dreams are a common symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder, these dreams play a more significant role in the works than as simple evidence of trauma. The dreams balance between truth and fantasy, in much the same way that trauma victims struggle between the desire to forget their experience, and the need to know and acknowledge the truth of their experience in order to recover from it. Thus, in trauma narratives, intrusive dreams not only demonstrate that the characters have suffered trauma, they represent this struggle between forgetfulness and acknowledgement, and the difficulty trauma victims have finding a starting point to recover from their experiences.
The Road to Recovery:
Homer’s Iliad and Shakespeare’s Richard III demonstrate how women’s traditional position of having little power increases their susceptibility to situations that commonly cause trauma. Helen, Anne, Queen Elizabeth, the Duchess of York, and Queen Margaret suffer trauma due to their inability to escape their respective perpetrators—they become domestic (and in Helen’s case, political) prisoners as defined by psychiatrist Judith Herman in Trauma and Recovery. Unfortunately, Helen remains in a subservient and insecure position and thus cannot start down the road of recovery. The women in Richard III, however, have more success beginning the healing process because they find commonality with each other. This provides them with “collective empowerment” against Richard and allows them to bear witness to each other’s stories, thus confirming the inappropriateness of Richard’s actions. Such a resolution reveals the crucial role that “communalization” (to use Jonathan Shay’s term) plays on the road to recovery.
Monster or Victim? Trauma and Representation in Shakespeare’s Richard III
Judith Herman and Jonathan Shay require the integration of traumatic events into victim’s lives as well as the integration of victims into society in their models of recovery from trauma. However, social attitudes about acceptable behaviors cause victims to avoid traumatic symptoms and to develop false identities which conform to social demands. Such demands include the necessity for hard work in order to survive financially, the taboo against speaking about sex and war, and the stigma against showing emotion in public settings. Recovery, however, requires honest integration and communalization of trauma. Richard, in Shakespeare’s Richard III, exemplifies a victim who creates a false identity that essentially prevents his recovery. Social standards of behavior impede the healing process thus weakening society as a whole. Certain social attitudes must evolve in order for society to flourish by facilitating the recovery process of trauma victims.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying & Laugh at Myself --
The emergence of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove signals a turning point in American culture and entertainment, particularly as it relates to the recovery of a traumatized nation during the height of the Cold War. Despite the common perception of insensitivity and tastelessness in comedy surrounding traumatic events, the use of humor holds an important place in the truth-telling process crucial to the recovery of trauma victims. It is valuable both as a literary device and a therapeutic tool. Kubrick’s use of humor cleverly reveals the constricted mentality of a traumatized population and the absurdity of its behavior, but opens the door to broader world-view that includes meta-cognition and self-criticism. The ability to laugh about serious material marks the emotional stability necessary to recovery from trauma and move forward as an individual and in society.
Ignorant Siblings in the Congregation:
Whether through poem or song, the expression of an artistic representation of trauma reconnects the victim/artist to his community, which Judith Herman and Jonathon Shay both argue is essential for the recovery process. However, in what may seem counter to an attempt to reconnect to one’s community, these representations often include violent expressions of anger towards the community and its ignorance of the victim/artist’s experience. Examining flashes of anger towards the audience in Sassoon’s war poetry, Milton’s “Lycidas” and Keenan’s “Wings for Marie (Part 1)” and “10,000 Days (Wings Part 2),” I argue that these expressions of anger are essential to an artistic representation of trauma, for they allow the victim/artist to communicate his traumatic experience and engage the community in the recovery process. By constructively expressing his grievances, the victim/artist hopes for an emotional response from members of the community that validates his experience and attempted recovery.
The Effect of Age on the Recovery Process
Vera Brittain's A Testament of Youth depicts the war-torn life of a young nurse in WWI as she attempts to manage the reality of death, violence, and trauma. Brittain's memoir demonstrates that war shatters a victim's innocence and replaces it with a worldview that changes how victims respond socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Brittain began to see war as a normal occurrence, rather than a distinct event; and this affected how she viewed all other experiences. This is similar to children and youth who endure abuse. Psychologist Jan Hindman argues that younger abuse victims integrate trauma into their worldviews, and require a different approach to recovery. Younger victims integrate traumatic events into their perceptions of the world, rather than recognizing them as a singular atrocious event, as an older victim might. Such a framework can help explain Brittain's text by recognizing the ideal recovery process as pertaining to war and abuse.