James Yansen

Nov 30, 2022

Daughter Zion's Trauma

A Trauma Informed Reading of Lamentations

Gorgias Press 2019

Utilizing insights from trauma studies, James Yansen's book Daughter Zion's Trauma: A Trauma Informed Reading of Lamentations (Gorgias Press, 2019) advances the view that awareness of trauma's potential effects sheds light on many of the book of Lamentations' complex literary features, and suggests new interpretive possibilities. Three characteristic features of traumatic experiences make this concept useful for a critical reading of Lamentations: 1) survivors' testimonies often convey a history that is not straightforwardly referential; 2) trauma causes rupture in memory; and 3) the trauma process includes rhetorical dimensions; individuals and communities work through and construct trauma in different ways in order to reconstitute themselves and ensure their survival in the aftermath of extreme catastrophe. Furthermore, social, political, cultural, historical, and theological/religious contexts are crucial for understanding how individuals and collectivities construe, respond to, witness to, work through, and create trauma.

Attending to Lamentations' likely traumatic matrix, the concept of non-referential history functions as a heuristic lens through which to view the historical significance of the Book's content, particularly its ubiquitous uses of stereotypical and metaphorical language. In addition, trauma-informed structural analysis demonstrates and mirrors the debilitating realities of caesura in life often associated with experiences of trauma. Drawing on insights from cultural trauma, specifically the rhetorical dimensions of the trauma process, Daughter Zion's Trauma asserts that Lamentations ensures the survival of those whose pain and anguish it voices by strategically adapting some of ancient Israel's religious traditions. The literary figure of Daughter Zion embodies and witnesses to the trauma of the survivor-communities she represents. The sheer enormity of Daughter Zion's trauma overshadows and undermines assertions and acknowledgements of her culpability. Further, protest, ambiguity, and ambivalent hope form the foundation for resilience and survival in Lamentations. Ultimately, trauma-informed readings of biblical literature that utilize an historically-informed, synchronic approach enable biblical scholars to pursue the interpretive possibilities of trauma studies without bracketing historical questions.

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Ari Barbalat

Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

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