Chapter 7. The Art and Science of Therapeutic Innovation: Hope for PTSD sufferers today and tomorrow

Drawing on the most recent findings in the fields of clinical, behavioral and evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, transcultural psychiatry, “alternative therapy,” and her personal  experiences, Jensen provides a jargon-free overview of key developments in the treatment of traumatic disorders. Highlighting the emergence of new psycho-pharmaceuticals designed to target and interfere with pathological neural processes, to new age and holistic approaches aimed at “supporting well-being,” to technologically-enhanced interventions using Virtual Reality visors, brain-activated telecommunications and the like, Jensen compares the evidence base for these interventions and considers their potential future value in the PTSD treatment.  Finally, Jensen explores the implications and the therapeutic efficacy of life narratives methodologies of various kinds for treating PTSD, including those that endeavour to make the neural circuitry of the brain “speak out. ” These life-telling interventions, Jensen concludes, can enable sufferers to interpret the processes of their traumatized brains and produce a new, resilient mind-story.

Chapter 6. Annihilation and Integration in Collective Posttraumatic Monuments, Testimonies and Literary Texts

Chapter 6. Annihilation and Integration in Collective Posttraumatic Monuments, Testimonies and Literary Texts

Jensen offers a unique comparison of collaborative memory projects: contemporary expressions of public suffering (such as the Monument Against Fascism in Hamburg, Germany) and collective literary and testimonial representations of group or generational traumatic history (like those generated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa). Such forms of witness arise, Jensen demonstrates, from identifiable biological and psychological conditions in posttraumatic communities, which elicit specific cognitive affects. Examining memorial projects such as the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, alongside collective testimonies from survivors of the Rwandan genocide, the Holocaust, the repression of indigenous peoples in Guatemala among others, Jensen highlights the ways that each these memorial projects, whether verbal or material create interactive, aesthetically interesting, interrogative and performative spaces in which stories can be shared through a rhetorically-distanced witness that enables the development of collective traumatic identity while simultaneously supporting traumatized communities.


Chapter 5: Speaking In and Speaking Out: Posttraumatic Poetry and Autography

Chapter 5. Speaking In and Speaking Out: Posttraumatic Poetry and Autography


Jensen analyses the complex strategies used to communicate posttraumatic autobiographical experience through the limiting frames of autography and poetry. Outlining the latest neuroscientific understandings of the relations between mental illness and the creative drive, Jensen demonstrates how both poetry and autography have arisen alongside traumatic historical contexts: while poetry traditionally communicated the horrors of war and imprisonment, autography has been used to tell stories of genocide, rape, incest, anorexia, and pedophilia.  Jensen argues that often in posttraumatic autobiographical works in these strict forms a remembered, intrusive scene of violent incursion upon the mind and body is “spoken out” verbally or visually in a manner similar to ekphrástic poetic renderings of a painting or sculpture. Drawing attention to this form of ekphrásis as the business of posttraumatic poetry and autography, Jensen concludes that in both forms, metaphor is used to reread powerful images and provide a rhetorical bridge between affective realms.

You can read a preview of Chapter 5: HERE

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Chapter 4: What It Is Like: Fiction, Fear, and Narratives of Feeling in Posttraumatic Autobiographical Novels


Chapter 4. What it is like: Fiction, Fear and Narratives of Feeling in Posttraumatic Autobiographical Novels

Jensen provides a unique comparison of serial autobiographical fictions written by Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Nabokov, Jack Kerouac and Julia Alvarez, reflecting on their use of both reality and the imagination in posttraumatic life-story telling. Focussing on the repetition of key autobiographical moments in their novels, Jensen, provides an analysis of the often conflicting viewpoints on those events presented by numerous narrating “bodies” in each of these texts: this point-of-view narrative strategy, Jensen argues, may be linked to the limbic phenomenon called “Event memory” in which a scene is constructed in memory from a particular point of view.  By similarly constructing a figurative witness who plausibly evokes the qualia of “what it was like” through a public incarnation of private suffering, these texts can be understood as counter narratives in which imaginative narration redresses old wounds, proposing an alternative story about subjectivity in the aftermath of trauma: narratives of feeling.

You can read a preview of Chapter 4: HERE 

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Chapter 3: Time, Body, Memory

brain.jpgChapter 3. Time, Body, Memory: The Staged Moment in Posttraumatic Letters, Journals, Essays and Memoirs


Jensen offers a detailed examination of the temporal narrative swerves that appear in much autobiographical literary non-fiction composed in the aftermath of traumatic experience: memoirs, letters, diaries and essays. Uniquely in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder, one can not only recall a past event but also re-experience it fully in both mind and body. Flashbacks bring the past viscerally into the present. Drawing on the latest neuroscientific findings on the interactions of “time cells” and memory in posttraumatic brains, Jensen demonstrates how an analysis of non-fiction works by Vladimir Nabokov, JG Ballard, Virginia Woolf, Jack Kerouac and Julia Alvarez alongside these scientific findings adds to and complicates our understanding of the temporal narrative dynamics through which painful experience can be negotiated in the aftermath of trauma. Moreover, it will posit one possible origin for each writer’s emblematic representations of a complex trope: the body in time.

You can read a preview of Chapter 3: HERE

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Chapter 2:Valuing the Witness: Typologies of Testimony

crime_victim_withnes_woman_reporting_station_5.jpgChapter 2. “Valuing the Witness: Typologies of Testimony”

Jensen provides a detailed analysis of the category of the witness in the context of trauma, via testimony composed in response to disaster, terrorism and genocide. Drawing on testimonial case studies from witnesses to the Holocaust, the Anfal, the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, the Challenger disaster and the terror attacks at Brussels Airport, Jensen identifies a series of dialectical frames that influence how private witnessing becomes public speech: Memory Effects, Dialogue Effects, and the effects of Procurement for Specific Audiences.  Uniquely, Jensen maps the complex interactions of these interdisciplinary frames (psychological, biological, historical, political and cultural) illustrating how these inform what witnesses say and how they are heard.  Valuing the Witness concludes that the witness statement in the context of post-conflict survivor testimony, is always also a palimpsest: a layering of cause and effect under pressure from external social/historical challenges as well as idiosyncratic life experiences and powerful bodily sensations.

You can read a preview of Chapter 2: HERE

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Chapter 1: The Negotiated Truth

IreneChapter 1. “The Negotiated Truth”

Jensen offers a useful outline of the history of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and a much-needed summary of the latest research from the fields of psychology, sociology, and neuroscience on its causes and symptoms. Focussing on novelist JG Ballard’s formulation of autobiographical representations as “negotiated truth,” Jensen explores the implications of such negotiations in the context of trauma from testimony to graphic memoir, from prison poetry to war memorials. Drawing on material from her own personal and professional life and autobiographical projects from the likes of Ballard, Herman Melville, Virginia Woolf and others, Jensen draws attention to the altered relationship to meaning inscribed by traumatic injury and the impact of that new way of seeing the past on representations of such experiences in all forms and genres. Negotiated truth, Jensen argues, is the key rhetorical figure in the art and science of trauma and the autobiographical.


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