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Trauma and Hauntology in Shakespeare’s Early History Plays

GAN, LINHAN (2022) Trauma and Hauntology in Shakespeare’s Early History Plays. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 07 March 2025.


In his first tetralogy and Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare delineates two opposing views on historiography, manifesting not only a redemptive understanding of history foregrounding a traditional sense of historical restitution, but also an amoral Machiavellian vision featuring the synergy between fortune and virtu. Neither approach, however, sufficiently explains the persistent manifestations of historically unresolved trauma that Shakespeare accentuates in these plays. This thesis argues that there is a prescient re-conceptualisation of historiography in those plays that could be described as traumatography, in which historical aberrations doggedly unsettle the more familiar conventions of linear narrative. In keeping with the Augustinian pessimism, Shakespeare suggests trauma can reside within. Skepticism about the state of an uninterpreted social cohesion haunts his hope for a shared recovery from past cultural trauma.
Chapter one reads Clarence as a victim of war trauma and establishes a framework to understand how a historical violence belatedly besieges a subjectivity. Chapter two examines the cultural and socio-political forces that cause a revision of primal violence. By producing a disconnect between the past and the present, this effect of superimposition plants trauma at the heart of historical transmission. Chapter three examines Shakespeare’s reflection on trans-historical trauma in the first tetralogy. It argues that Shakespeare stages a skepticism about mankind’s moral capability, a skepticism in keeping with the pessimistic view of human nature salient in Western culture. Chapter four proposes that Shakespeare presents a prescient vision of the Freudian pessimism about civilisation. For Shakespeare, civilisation seems incapable of working through the possibility of social disintegration. Chapter five argues that the intense military culture in 1 Henry VI paradoxically inaugurates a future in Richard III of the ghostly and the immaterial. Chapter six examines the fetishisation of historical trauma and the victimisation of the other in Titus Andronicus.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Shakespeare's first tetralogy; Titus Andronicus; historical trauma; Freud; trans-historical trauma; hauntology. victimisation
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:07 Mar 2022 10:01

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