Literature and Culture

Szabolcs Virágh

The Interplay of Collective and Individual Trauma in the Works of Attila József

I set out to analyze the different role trauma plays in sciences such as neurobiology, psychology, history, literature and gender studies, which in turn means exploring the possibility and legitimacy of a trauma theory as an interdisciplinary framework. I intend to use Ruth Ley’s Trauma: A Genealogy as a starting point, a book that – applying a deconstructive approach – focuses on the unstable use of trauma as a concept. I am interested in the intersection and interplay of collective and individual traumas as presented in a variety of speech acts such as interviews, (auto)biographies, diaries, psychotherapy documents, and fictional writings. Using an interdisciplinary approach including methods of narrative psychology, oral history, microhistory, psychoanalysis and postmodern literary theories I am hoping to gain an insight into the process of how traumatic experiences and their narration shape the perception of individual, family and national pasts in 20th and 21st century Hungary. One of the touchstones of this project is Attila József, whose oeuvre and texts written about him incorporate many of the above mentioned genres ranging from the well-known poems through the controversial, hard-to-categorize piece Szabad-ötletek jegyzéke to documents of his psychotherapy (Sárgahajúak szövetsége, Rapaport-levél). Diaries and memoirs written by important female figures around him will also be analyzed (Napló és visszaemlékezés by Judit Szántó, József Attila utolsó hónapjairól by Gyuláné Illyés).

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