Literary Trauma Theory

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As mentioned before, trauma referred to physiological events as “a form of bodily or physical harm” in the eighteenth century while it had emotional and psychological references in the nineteenth century (Buelens, Durrant and Eaglestone xi). Therefore, in order to avoid anachronism in analyzing traumatic experiences in the eighteenth century through literary trauma theory, I intend to find similar terms used in the eighteenth century to refer to these traumatic experiences and their aftermath. Moreover, what makes this approach appropriate for investigating trauma in early English novel is the mutual relationship between medical discourse and literary discourse in the eighteenth and the late twentieth century. As a result, this section will…show more content…
So melancholy was fashionable among intellectuals and elites. Samuel Johnson and his biographer Boswell were among these elite figures. They referred to depression along with melancholy in their writings, but it was not until the mid-eighteenth century that word depression came into use for a mental state in English. Samuel Johnson defined depression as “the act of humbling; lowness of spirits; act of pressing down” (96) and used the term as a modifier and not as a reference to a specific kind of disorder. Still, the concept of “depression” did not appear as a noun until the end of the nineteenth century, and thus not a term to be found in the early English novels analyzed in this dissertation (Jackson 444). The terms used in order to refer to depression in Johnson’s period were melancholy, hypochondria, spleen. Melancholy was also associated with (1) any type of disease caused by the presence of imbalance in black bile, (2) a type of madness named “a partial insanity” in the eighteenth century and attributed to “mental disturbance as forms of cognitive disorder” (Radden, The Nature of Melancholy 22), and (3) habitual disposition or as Johnson defines melancholy as “gloomy, hypochondriacal, dismal” and “sadness, pensiveness” (214). Melancholy was also considered a hereditary disorder as Boswell
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