War and Trauma in the Modern Age

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 08 October 2020
Friday 02 July 2021
07 October 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA CL83 Sociology with Social Psychology,
BA CL93 Sociology with Social Psychology (Including Placement Year),
BA CLV3 Sociology with Social Psychology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LCJ8 Sociology with Psychosocial Studies (Including Placement Year),
BA LJ8C Sociology with Psychosocial Studies (Including Year Abroad),
BA LJC8 Sociology with Psychosocial Studies,
BA L332 Sociology with Counselling Skills

Module description

What is 'trauma' and how is its history connected to that of war in the twentieth century? How have stories of trauma become a feature of contemporary society, and why?

Module aims

This module traces the history of trauma from the age of 'total war', through the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts to the present, linking the history and sociology of medicine to the cultural and social history of modern warfare.

The module looks at how medical understandings of trauma have changed, and how they reflect the social norms of their time, from the late nineteenth century concern with hysteria, through the discovery of 'shell-shock' in the First World War, to Gulf War Syndrome and PTSD in the 1990s.

Module learning outcomes

The module will investigate the rise and circulation of trauma culture in art, film, and personal testimony of war. It concludes with reflection on the age of catastrophe, developing a critical sociological perspective on the contemporary fascination with trauma.

* knowledge of the social and cultural history of wars across the 20th Century and of their role in the development of key concepts such as ‘shell-shock’, ‘hysteria’, ‘trauma’ and ‘PTSD’.

* skills of critical evaluation and intellectual argument.

* the capacity to interpret historical and contemporary testimony about war - including literature, oral testimony, art and film – and an ability to understand the methodological and interpretative issues associated with testimonies of trauma.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

No information available.


  • Robert De Board. (2014) 'Groups and their basic assumptions—the in?uence of Wilfred Bion', in The psychoanalysis of organizations: a psychoanalytic approach to behaviour in groups and organizations, New York: Routledge., pp.35-48
  • Cimino, Michael; De Niro, Robert. (c2002) The deer hunter, [London?]: Warner Bros Home Video.
  • Fonda, Jane; Hellman, Jerome; Ashby, Hal. (2004) Coming home, [U.K.]: MGM Home Entertainment.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Bell, Anthea; Robertson, Ritchie. (2013) A case of hysteria: (Dora), Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shephard, Ben. (2000) A war of nerves, London: Jonathan Cape.
  • Lawrence, Jon. (2003) 'Forging a Peaceable Kingdom: War, Violence, and Fear of Brutalization in Post–First World War Britain', in The Journal of Modern History. vol. 75 (3) , pp.557-589
  • Herzog, Dagmar. (©2014) 'The Obscenity of Objectivity: Post-Holocaust Anti-Semitism and the Invention-Discovery of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder', in Catastrophes: a history and theory of an operative concept, Oldenbourg: De Gruyter., pp.128-155
  • Marianne Hirsch. (2012) The generation of postmemory: writing and visual culture after the Holocaust, New York: Columbia University Press. vol. Gender and culture
  • Grinker, Roy R.; Spiegel, John P. (©1979) Men under stress, New York: Irvington Publishers.
  • Elaine Showalter. (1997) 'Gulf War Syndrome', in Hystories: hysterical epidemics and modern culture, London: Picador., pp.133-143
  • Gaylyn Studlar and David Desser. (1988) 'Never Having to Say You're Sorry: Rambo's Rewriting of the Vietnam War', in Film Quarterly. vol. 42, pp.9-16
  • Bion, Wilfred R.; Bion, Francesca. (1997) War memoirs, 1917-1919, London: Karnac Books.
  • Gerwarth, Robert. (2016) The vanquished: why the First World War failed to end, 1917-1923, London: Allen Lane.
  • Heard, Barry. (2007) Well done, those men: memoirs of a Vietnam veteran, Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
  • Kubrick, Stanley; Modine, Matthew; Baldwin, Adam. (2001) Full metal jacket, [London?]: Warner Home Video. vol. Stanley Kubrick collection
  • Bion and experiences in groups,
  • Coppola, Francis Ford; Sheen, Martin; Brando, Marlon; Duvall, Robert. (1999, c1979) Apocalypse now, [Hollywood, Calif.?]: Paramount.
  • Miriam Reisman. (2016) 'PTSD Treatment for Veterans: What’s Working, What’s New, and What’s Next', in P&T: A Peer-Reviewed Journal for Managed Care & Formulary Management: MediMedia USA. vol. 41 (10) , pp.623-634
  • Lanzmann, Claude. (c2007) Shoah, [S.l.]: Eureka.
  • Shephard, Ben. (2002) A war of nerves: soldiers and psychiatrists, 1914-1994, London: Pimlico.
  • Wellum, Geoffrey. (2009) First light, London: Michael Joseph.
  • Amy Bell. (2009) 'Landscapes of Fear: Wartime London, 1939-1945', in Journal of British Studies: Cambridge University Press. vol. 48 (1) , pp.153-175
  • Kent, Susan. (2009) Aftershocks: politics and trauma in Britain, 1918-1931, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Laub, Dori. (1991) 'Truth and Testimony: The Process and the Struggle', in American Imago: The Johns Hopkins University Press. vol. 48 (1) , pp.75-91
  • Summerfield, D. (2001) 'The invention of post-traumatic stress disorder and the social usefulness of a psychiatric category', in BMJ. vol. 322 (7278) , pp.95-98
  • Michal, Givoni. (2011) 'Witnessing/Testimony', in Mafte'akh : lexical review of political thought: Tel Aviv University. vol. 2e, pp.147-170
  • Bion, Wilfred R. (1943) 'Intra-Group Tensions in Therapy: Their Study as the Task of the Group', in The Lancet. vol. 242 (6274) , pp.678-682
  • Dodd, Lindsey. (2013) ''It did not traumatise me at all': childhood 'trauma' in French oral narratives of wartime bombing', in Oral History: Oral History Society. vol. 41 (2) , pp.37-48
  • Bar-On, Dan. (1995) Fear and hope: three generations of the Holocaust, Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Reddick, John; Edmundson, Mark. (2003) Beyond the pleasure principle and other writings, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics
  • W. H. R. Rivers. (1920) 'The Repression of War Experience', in Instinct and the unconscious: a contribution to a biological theory of the psycho-neuroses, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. vol. The Cambridge medical series, pp.185-204
  • Garland, Caroline. (1998) Understanding trauma: a psychoanalytical approach, London: Duckworth.
  • Fassin, Didier; Rechtman, Richard. (c2009) The empire of trauma: an inquiry into the condition of victimhood, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Horwitz, Allan V. (©2018) PTSD: a short history, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Elizabeth Jelin; Susana G. Kaufmann. (2000) 'Layers of Memories: twenty years after in Argentina', in The politics of war memory and commemoration, London: Routledge. vol. Routledge studies in memory and narrative, pp.89-110
  • Durodié, Bill. (2006) 'Risk and the Social Construction of 'Gulf War Syndrome', in Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences: Royal Society. vol. 361 (1468) , pp.689-695

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Reading Assignment   12/11/2020  10% 
Coursework   Essay 1  17/12/2020  40% 
Coursework   Book Review   19/02/2021  20% 
Coursework   Essay 2   25/03/2021  30% 
Exam  Main exam: 24hr during Summer (Main Period) 

Additional coursework information

Examination: 50 % Coursework: 50 % 1 x 2,000 word essay 40% essay 10% book review Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2018-19 and will be updated in August 2019

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Shaul Bar Haim, email:
Prof Michael Roper, email:
Dr Shaul Bar Haim and Professor Mike Roper
Jane Harper, Undergraduate Administrator, Telephone: 01206 873052 E-mail:



External examiner

Dr Jennifer Fleetwood
Goldsmiths, University of London
Senior Lecturer in Criminology
Available via Moodle
Of 1255 hours, 1 (0.1%) hours available to students:
1252 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
2 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

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