“STORIES CAN SAVE US”: WRITING AS THERAPY IN WAR LITERATURE, POETRY, AND MEMOIR
Uchida, Nicole Yoko
This thesis seeks to explore the contemporary studies of “moral injury” through the modes of war fiction, poetry, and memoir. Using the works of poet Carolyn Forché regarding the concept of poetry as witness, moral philosopher Nancy Sherman and psychiatrist Dr. Jonathan Shay’s work on moral injury, as well as the research of psychiatrist Dr. Judith Herman and her studies on trauma and the process of recovery, I argue that writing is a means of creating witness. Additionally, using author Leslie Jamison’s work on empathy, I argue that the acts of writing and reading allow for the potential for those who have undergone trauma to heal, and those who have not to understand.My first chapter focuses on Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and the telling of fictional stories as a method of assuaging his trauma. O’Brien, a Vietnam War Veteran, recounts his time as a soldier in the war and creates fictionalized versions of his experiences. My second chapter centers on Pat Barker’s Regeneration and the function of poetry as witness for those affected by moral injury. In Barker’s dramatized account of World War I, British soldiers Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen create poetry to make sense of their trauma. In my third chapter, I focus on William Manchester’s memoir Goodbye, Darkness and address the function of recounting traumatic experience through memoir as a method of recovery for war trauma and moral injury. Manchester, a veteran of World War II, details his time as a U.S. Marine, and thirty years after the war’s end, returns to the sites of battle in the Pacific. Through their stories, these authors assert that the acts of writing and storytelling heal moral injury.
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