Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History by Dori Laub

Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History by Dori Laub

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Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History by Dori Laub

Dori Laub, author of, "Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History", discusses a concept of missed experiences referred to as the 'collapse of witnessing'. The 'collapse of witnessing' is the idea that a person can witness an event and yet at the same time not really witness it at all. Through the analysis of Laub's 'collapse of witnessing', a connection can be seen between St. Teresa and Mary Rowlandson. St. Teresa is a nun that devotes her life to God, while Mary Rowlandson is the wife of a minister that is taken captive by Indians. They both have missed experiences and/or situations of the 'collapse of witnessing'. A traumatic event that can not be understood, can not be mastered, and can not be incorporated in the social, often times also, can not be witnessed. This 'collapse of witness' can be seen in both The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself and The True History of the Captivity of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson; and the 'collapse of witness' can be used as a tool to connect these two trauma texts.
According to Dori Laub there are, "three separate, distinct levels of witnessing" (Laub 75). These three levels are, "the level of being a witness to oneself within the experience; the level of being a witness to the testimonies of others; and the level of being a witness to the process of witnessing itself" (Laub 75). The 'collapse of witnessing' is how in relation to trauma, many times a person can not witness the event because the event is beyond the realm of the social. "The events [that] are remembered and seem to have been experienced in a way that [is] far beyond the normal capacity for recall" ...


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...ich she was originally from and the social from which she endured trauma for eleven weeks and five days. It is at this point that we can clearly see why there was a 'collapse of witness' to the process of witnessing and why Rowlandson chose and was forced to be a 'witness' on all levels.
Both Rowlandson and Teresa are examples of the 'collapse of witnessing' but also of the eventual 'witnessing' of the traumatic events of their lives. It is important to be aware of the other concepts that tie into Teresa and Rowlandson's 'collapse of witnessing'. Latency and melancholia play a part in Teresa and Rowlandson's 'collapse of witnessing', respectively. These concepts intertwine with Laub's theory of 'collapse of witnessing' to show a clear connection between The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself and The True History of the Captivity of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.

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