Blake, Brandy Ball
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While the number of critical studies of fantasy has been growing since the 1970s, few critics have focused on the interplay between works of fantasy and trauma, its symptoms, and its theories. In this dissertation, I examine the appearance of trauma in numerous works of the genre, showing the prevalence of traumatic experiences and neuroses and illustrating fantasy’s ability to focus on and significantly address serious real-world issues, including violence, death, and other traumatic events. More specifically, the essays included in this dissertation explore the ways in which the presence of trauma in fantasy stories utilizes, comments upon, and enhances the traditions and conventions of the fantasy genre, which because of the connection between fantasy and psychoanalysis often have a psychological subtext. Focusing on a range of work in trauma theory from Freud and Jung to Cathy Caruth, Donald Kalsched, and Anne Whitehead, I demonstrate that trauma in fantasy stories uses intertextuality, in the sense of both extensive allusions to previous works and the repetition of formal genre conventions, to illustrate the daemonic nature of trauma, particularly the fixation of the hero on a traumatic event and the feelings of helplessness and compulsion that he experiences as he proceeds towards his heroic destiny. In fantasy characters from works such as The Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, C. S. Lewis’s Til We Have Faces, and Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, this fixation manifests through the repetition of fantasy traditions—such as the ongoing battle between good and evil, the compulsion of the hero to save others, the recurrence of functional characterization, and the representation of the journey archetype—that mirror the symptoms of trauma. Furthermore, while fantasy has often been considered escapist, the connections between trauma theory, fantasy, and psychoanalysis highlight the serious issues surrounding trauma by illustrating the hero’s struggle, allowing the audience to better understand the overwhelming forces of traumatic experience.