Trauma and Gender in 20th Century European Literature

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesOrganiser of major conference


Trauma, just like other psychosomatic concepts in medical history such as shock and stress, has been subjected to a variety of interpretations across disciplines since it emerged in the nineteenth-century as a notion to capture certain psychological experiences and conditions in modern societies and cultures. Yet, it remains a highly contested term that has seen numerous redefinitions as its place in popular and medical discourse is continuingly under scrutiny. By taking a medical humanities approach to the 20th century landscape of trauma, this conference seeks to explore how European literature engages with gender and trauma. Our premise is that the discussion of mental health in literature may constitute a symptomatic representation of existing views, but it may also constitute a subversive discourse and even a coping mechanism. The emphasis placed on verbalisation by literature and psychoanalysis suggests the use of narration as a therapeutic tool. However, the existing research in various fields from medicine to psychoanalysis delivers a wide variety of interpretations and does not clearly account for the role of gender in the verbalisation/writing of trauma. As Luce Irigaray points out in Je, Tu, Nous, ‘How could discourse not be sexed when language is? […] Differences between men’s and women’s discourses are thus the effect of language and society, society and language.’ (1990: 25-26). In addition, by taking gender specifically into account, this conference aims to shed new light on the existing assumptions which permeate the medical history of trauma, so that our understanding and our models of trauma become more nuanced, interdisciplinary and versatile. It is envisaged that this event will provide a platform for discussion and networking. Confirmed keynote speakers ■Professor Marianne Hirsch, Columbia University ■Dr Lucia Aiello, University of York
Period11 Mar 201612 Mar 2016
Event typeConference
LocationGlasgow, United Kingdom


  • trauma
  • gender
  • european literature
  • Medical Humanities
  • 20th century