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Violence and the Remaking of a Self

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On July 4, 1990, while on a morning walk in southern France, Susan Brison was attacked from behind, severely beaten, sexually assaulted, strangled to unconsciousness, and left for dead. She survived, but her world was destroyed. Her training as a philosopher could not help her make sense of things, and many of her fundamental assumptions about the nature of the self and the world it inhabits were shattered.

At once a personal narrative of recovery and a philosophical exploration of trauma, this book examines the undoing and remaking of a self in the aftermath of violence. It explores, from an interdisciplinary perspective, memory and truth, identity and self, autonomy and community. It offers imaginative access to the experience of a rape survivor as well as a reflective critique of a society in which women routinely fear and suffer sexual violence.

As Brison observes, trauma disrupts memory, severs past from present, and incapacitates the ability to envision a future. Yet the act of bearing witness, she argues, facilitates recovery by integrating the experience into the survivor's life's story. She also argues for the importance, as well as the hazards, of using first-person narratives in understanding not only trauma, but also larger philosophical questions about what we can know and how we should live.

Bravely and beautifully written, Aftermath is that rare book that is an illustration of its own arguments.

Publishers Weekly Review

Nov 19, 2001 – In this movingly written meditation on the effects violence has had on her life, Brison evokes the experience of trauma, both for those who seek to understand its power and for survivors who might find solace in her words. A philosophy professor at Dartmouth, Brison was taking a walk in the French countryside when she was brutally attacked, raped and left for dead. This slim volume is the result of years of recovery—both the physical healing in the immediate aftermath and the emotional repairs necessary over the subsequent decade. Her training as a philosopher makes this an intellectually stimulating read, even as she successfully avoids the academic tone that could be off-putting to a wider audience. Brison's reflections on memory and forgetting and the manner in which traumatic events divide time and affect personality and relationships will resonate with anyone who has experienced great pain and suffering, as well as with the people who love and care for them. As she writes on the importance of telling the story, "control, repeatedly exercised, leads to greater control over the memories themselves, making them less intrusive and giving them the kind of meaning that enables them to be integrated into the rest of life." This is a brave and inspiring book—and with its references to literature, film, psychology and philosophy, a thought-provoking one, too.
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  • $21.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Social Science
  • Published: Nov 28, 2011
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Seller: Princeton University Press
  • Print Length: 184 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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