Historical Trauma in Native American and Jewish Literatures
Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart defines historical trauma as the "collective emotional and psychological injury both over the life span and across generations, resulting from a cataclysmic history of genocide" (Ottenbacher 2). Populations with a legacy of genocide can transfer the psychological trauma from one generation to the next, creating a cycle of effects such as alcoholism, domestic violence, and instability in the home. Native Americans and the Jewish populations carry with them histories of genocide and have the potential to transmit unresolved trauma from generation to generation. This thesis discusses historical trauma as it is exhibited in selected Native American and Jewish texts. Each chapter discusses a different stage of transmission, and the literatures from Native American and Jewish authors are compared to show similarities and differences. Elie Wiesel's memoir Night (1958) and D'Arcy McNickle's Wind from an Enemy Sky (1978) are used in Chapter One to examine the effects of the trauma on the first generation. The two young boys, Eliezer in Night and Antoine in Wind from an Enemy Sky, are compared as witnesses to the trauma. Through a sequence of stressors they experience a loss of culture, and are the generation at the root of the cycle of the transmission of historical trauma. In Chapter Two, Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (2007) and Bernard Malamud's The Assistant (1957) are discussed in regards to the effects of historical trauma on subsequent generations. Junior in The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, and Morris and his daughter Helen from The Assistant are compared to argue the transmission of the effects of historical trauma through observation, subconscious absorption, and sociocultural factors. Junior observes damaging behaviors like alcoholism in his father; while Morris transmits his depression and low self-esteem to Helen who begins to exhibit the same behavior. The final chapter introduces N. Scott Momaday's The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) and uses texts from previous chapters to discuss possible paths towards healing from historical trauma and create a positive collective memory. The importance of comparing the colonization of North America and the Jewish Holocaust is to bring attention to the two histories, and keep them relevant in today's society in order to preserve the memory of those who did not survive, and to fight the denial of the trauma that lingers in the perpetrator's society.
Reagan, Juliana. (January 2012). Historical Trauma in Native American and Jewish Literatures (Master's Thesis, East Carolina University). Retrieved from the Scholarship. (http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4085.)
Reagan, Juliana. Historical Trauma in Native American and Jewish Literatures. Master's Thesis. East Carolina University, January 2012. The Scholarship. http://hdl.handle.net/10342/4085. September 29, 2020.
Reagan, Juliana, “Historical Trauma in Native American and Jewish Literatures” (Master's Thesis., East Carolina University, January 2012).
Reagan, Juliana. Historical Trauma in Native American and Jewish Literatures [Master's Thesis]. Greenville, NC: East Carolina University; January 2012.
East Carolina University