War Trauma in the Construction of American Lost-war Culture: From WWI to Vietnam and the Present

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Virginia Tech


The war veteran suffering Shell Shock is one of the most enduring images of twentieth century war. Among 21st century media pundits and even some medical professionals, however, few are aware that Shell Shock was largely discredited after WWI, its diagnostic significance overshadowed by its cultural and political meanings. Even fewer observers are aware that Shell Shock played out in inter-war Germany as a metaphor for a nation traumatized by war whose defeat and hurt could only be avenged through more war. This paper will reprise in greater detail this biography of war trauma with attention to: a) The way art, news media, and other cultural forms played into the construction of Shell Shock; b) The Freudian intervention in the matter of traumatized WWI veterans; c) the way filmic representations of veterans intensified the political sentiments of inter-war Germany. The paper will then extend the trajectory of war trauma biography into and beyond the Vietnam War era to show its agency in the construction of a victim-veteran imagery via PTSD and TBI that abets an American lost-war narrative eerily similar to that which remilitarized Germany after the First World War.



War-trauma, Shell shock, Betrayal in war, German revanchism, Victimveteran imagery, PTSD, Post-traumatic stress disorder, ViS, Veterans in Society, Race and/or Reconciliation, the Third Conference on Veterans in Society