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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.
Review: With a remarkable blend of intensity and logic, Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self speaks directly to the heart of anyone involved in the recovery of life after trauma. Author Susan Brison, professor of philosophy, shares her survival of rape and attempted murder with depth and passion; you'll witness a personal struggle to survive coupled with the broader issue of coping with sudden violence as an unavoidable fact of life. This book was 10 years in the making, and Brison wisely left her earlier, angrier writings as they originally appeared, followed by calmer, more logical (yet still deeply felt) musings. The change in tone is one survivors will be familiar with.
In her search, Brison discusses public reaction to trauma, and the prescription to forget and move on that is so widely recommended. She covers rape, certainly, but also touches on many other types of violence--the acts of war, murder, and abuse that follow us in the headlines. Philosophers from Wittgenstein to Locke are referenced, up to her final comments: "Recovery no longer seems like picking up the pieces of a shattered self. It's facing the fact that there was never a coherent self there to begin with." --Jill Lightner
Title: Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a ...
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