This article considers two famous works published in France during the Algerian War and forever after interpretively linked: Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth and Jean-Paul Sartre's Preface to Fanon's book. It argues that yoking together the two texts has distorted key features of each, in particular as they relate to the multiform problem of violence. To overcome a misreading of Fanon's position by Sartre, the analysis presented here uses the under-examined clinical case studies in the final chapter of Wretched to emphasize Fanon's acknowledgment of violence as a source of trauma, not only a means by which trauma is transcended. It then attempts to explain Sartre's reinterpretation of Fanon's message in light of ongoing postwar debates within the French intellectual Left about the revolutionary potential of violence in metropolitan France.
Frantz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, and the Violence of the Algerian War
If one practical way to define trauma is to consider it as a chronic inability to access and process catastrophic events, that is, as a systematic and haunting blockage of memory formation and reclamation of past experiences, then historians have an inherent stake in the concept. This basic observation is not new, of course, but until now only historians of the Holocaust have evinced serious and consistent interest in the vast literature on Trauma Studies. Most historians—for example those who work with the distant past, with non-Western societies, or with less extreme historical events—have not had to engage with the historical implications of trauma. In as much as historians use the term, they do so from the lay standpoint that considers trauma as a horrible and tragic man-made event or a natural disaster. In its popular and very elastic usage the event (trauma) and its consequences (always “traumatic”) run the risk of remaining unexplored and largely unexplained, and thus, paradoxically, actually traumatic in the sense of not allowing access to the past. While remaining cognizant of the bland usage of the concept of trauma, the goal of this special issue is to offer a modest commentary on what Trauma Studies can offer to “Other Historians” and, perhaps, on what they can offer in return. The work presented here is of a provisional nature and is the product of a year-long seminar by a diverse group of historians at the Institute of Historical Studies at the University of Texas at Austin and the international conference, “Trauma and History,” that they organized.
A Critical Inquiry
The Reign of Terror in the French Revolution was a traumatic event, yet the language of trauma was not available to contemporaries of the revolutionary period. This article examines how physicians, revolutionary leaders, and men of letters thought about the effects of the Terror on self and society before the advent of modern trauma-talk. It shows that, in the context of the medical and philosophical theories available at the time, many saw the Terror as a constructive and therapeutic experience. This finding should complicate how historians apply the concept of trauma to account for past experiences. Based on this proposition, this article argues that it is not that the concept of trauma can help us understand the revolutionary era. Rather, it is that the changes brought about by the revolutionary era created the conditions for the emergence of modern trauma theory.
Dutch Political Culture and the Indonesian Question in 1945
Jennifer L. Foray
Of the mid-twentieth-century European imperial powers, only the Netherlands experienced foreign occupation during World War II, followed soon after by the declaration of independence of the East Indies, its prized possession. I argue that the first series of events constituted a “cultural trauma,” and that, after May 1945, Dutch politicians and pundits viewed developments in Indonesia through this lens of wartime trauma. By the year's end, political actors had begun to interpret the recent metropolitan past and the developing Indonesian conflict according to the same rhetorical framework, emphasizing binaries such as “resistance versus collaboration.” While those on the political Left analogized the two conflicts in order to promote a negotiated settlement, their opponents hoped that, by refusing to recognize Sukarno's Republic of Indonesia, the Netherlands could avoid a second and perhaps even more damaging cultural trauma.
The call to attend to a history of affect is hardly a new one in the profession: in 1941, in a classic essay entitled “La sensibilité et l’histoire: Comment reconstituer le vie affective d’autrefois?,” Lucien Febvre laid out an agenda for just such a historiographical turn. His reasoning, however, had less to do with the need for a history of affect per se than with the belief that the history of ideas or of institutions, both of them mainstays of traditional historiography, “are subjects that the historian can neither understand nor make understood without this primordial interest that I call the psychological.” In a perceptive review essay of the historiography of emotions that marked the beginning of the current affective turn in historical inquiry, Barbara Rosenwein argued that Febvre’s turn toward such a history was less a repudiation of the political focus of history than a belief born from observing the rise of Nazism: “politics itself is not rational, not unemotional.” As Rosenwein notes, Febvre answered the skeptics in his own essay: “The history of hate, the history of fear, the history of cruelty, the history of love; stop bothering us with this idle chatter. But that idle chatter … will tomorrow have turned the universe into a fetid pile of corpses.”
Spiritual Lovesickness in the Letters of Anne-Marie Martinozzi
In February 1654, Anne-Marie Martinozzi, a niece of Cardinal Mazarin, married Armand de Bourbon, Prince of Conti. The newlyweds went on to experience almost concurrent pious conversions that would transform their social behavior for the remainder of their lives. Shortly afterward, Armand was posted to northern Italy as commander of the French army, necessitating a six-month estrangement of the couple between May and October 1657. This article explores a corpus of “love letters” penned by the princess during this separation. It argues that Anne-Marie not only claimed to be suffering from “melancholy” as a result of her separation from her lover and spouse, but that she also constructed an image of herself as spiritually lovesick on account of her deprivation from her mentor and confidant. In doing so, this article sheds light on the centrality of copenitents to the direction of spiritual lives in the aftermath of a pious conversion.
Sense and Sentiment in the Early Modern World
Lucien Febvre’s 1941 call for historians to recover the histoire des sentiments is now routinely evoked by scholars in the wake of the recent “emotional turn” in the historical discipline. Historians would regain their “appetite for discovery” (goût à l’exploration) once they delved into the deepest recesses of the discipline, where history meets psychology, Febvre predicted. His plea followed the aims of a generation of scholars working in the early twentieth century—Johan Huizinga and Norbert Elias among them—who sought to recapture the affective lives of the past. Yet the history of sense and sentiment perhaps owes its greatest debt to Febvre and his colleagues in the Annales School, who, via the study of mentalités and private life, made the study of emotions a serious object of historical inquiry. Some four decades passed before Febvre’s challenge was taken up with any rigor. In the 1980s, the work of Peter and Carol Z. Stearns sought to chart the emotional standards and co des of past societies—something they termed “emotionology.” Since then, over the past three decades the history of emotions has been pioneered by scholars such as Barbara H. Rosenwein and William Reddy in seminal works that introduced us to now classic interpretative frameworks such as “emotional communities” and “emotives.” This burgeoning of interest in the history of emotions has now also found expression in a number of institutional research centers and publication series devoted to the subject.
On the Articulation of Old-Age Mental Incapacity in Eighteenth-Century Tuscany
This article explores the role attributed to disturbed emotions in the understanding of old-age mental incapacity in eighteenth-century Tuscany. It claims that interdiction procedures provided a fertile forum for the negotiation of what constituted mental incapacity in old age, which progressively involved a discussion on accepted or proper emotional reactions. Delving into the language employed in interdiction narratives, it argues that references to disturbed emotional states were increasingly employed as a means of providing evidence of disordered states of mind. It also suggests that the constituent elements of mental incapacity and the emotional reactions deemed indicative of its presence were dependent on the familial and sociocultural context in which the behavior was identified. Interdictions thus reveal the articulation of a collective, culturally embedded language of mental incapacity that was profoundly entrenched in the formulation of behavioral norms and the shaping of standards of emotional reaction.
Forms of Love in the Renaissance
This article reflects on the centrality of the senses of sight and hearing in the birth of romantic love. It explores the treatment of two forms of love, natural and divine, in fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century Italy, tracing the initial movements of the former and shifts in the latter. Making use of two literary works, by Enea Silvio Piccolomini (Pope Pius II) and Pietro Bembo, two paintings, by Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael, and several treatises on marital obligation and the “marital debt”, it charts the emergence of the idea that sensual love was legitimate in marriage and the impact of affective mysticism on the concept of divine love.
Symptoms, Sensations, Feelings
Through the fascinating late sixteenth-century legal battle over the inheritance of the Florentine nobleman Giovambattista di Bindaccio Ricasoli Baroni, in which the young Galileo Galilei appeared as a key witness, this article reflects on two key categories of emotion of the era: melancholy and terror (specifically, fear of death). In analyzing these emotions, which hounded the unfortunate Ricasoli throughout his life, the article shows that, far from being the private sentiments of a single pathological individual, these emotions reflected the mood of people living in an era when the shadow of the oppression of arbitrary power in this world and of the possibility of eternal suffering in the next were particularly salient. Moreover, seemingly perennial emotions like sadness or the fear of death or shame, far from being unchanging, can take different and unpredictable configurations in a precise historical context, based on impulses and conflicts related to the power relations and the mental patrimony of that society.