The Re-presentation of Trauma in the Tales by Joseph Conrad

  • Thanh Huong Dang

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


Since the 1990s, trauma theory has become a familiar and gradually prevalent concept in the landscape of contemporary cultural and narrative-based disciplines. There are many academic studies that analyse representations of trauma in literature; nevertheless, so far, few have given much reflection to the traditional perspective that those who experience trauma should be identified primarily as victims. By concentrating solely on victimisation, we overlook a subset of individuals who were never believed to have been “traumatised” by violent occurrences, despite exhibiting apparent symptoms of trauma. The thesis aims to remedy this oversimplified relationship between trauma and victimhood, through reading a corpus of representative works by Joseph Conrad (Heart of Darkness, “Amy Foster” and Under Western Eyes).

Conrad’s protagonists range from those traumatised by complicity with genocide to those who survive a shipwreck. Throughout three chapters, this thesis, in a number of experimental approaches, aspires to move away from the traditional paradigm of trauma theory by challenging orthodox emphases on victimhood. Doing so does not mean the thesis puts aside the moral evaluation of the characters’ violent deeds or finds any way to minimise their guilt.

By encouraging a more inclusive understanding of trauma and victimhood, this argument proposes new formulations of how trauma is experienced, thus offering a unique perspective on how we process our reality and delve deeper into the human mind. In addition, integrating several social, cultural, and ethical viewpoints allows us to comprehend trauma within a broader framework. This, in turn, creates new prospects to apply trauma theory to literature in combination with interdisciplinary theoretical practices such as deconstruction, poststructuralism, postcolonial theories and socio-cultural studies.
Date of Award4 Sep 2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Rudrum (Main Supervisor) & Sarah Falcus (Co-Supervisor)

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