War and Trauma in the Modern Age

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
29 June 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for


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? 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.

It 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 aims

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.

Module learning outcomes

* 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

Please note that assessment information is currently showing for 2019-20 and will be updated in September.

Learning and teaching methods

No information available.


  • Lessing, Doris; Schlueter, Paul. (1994) A small personal voice: essays, reviews, interviews, London: Flamingo.
  • Bion and experiences in groups,
  • Judt, Tony. (2005) 'From the House of the Dead. An essay on modern European memory', in Postwar: a history of Europe since 1945, London: William Heinemann.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Reddick, John; Edmundson, Mark. (2003) Beyond the pleasure principle and other writings, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics
  • Jeffery, Keith. (2015) 'Commemoration in the United Kingdom: A multitude of memories', in Australian Journal of Political Science. vol. 50 (3) , pp.562-567
  • Heard, Barry. (2007) Well done, those men: memoirs of a Vietnam veteran, Melbourne: Scribe Publications.
  • 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
  • Wellum, Geoffrey. (2009) First light, London: Michael Joseph.
  • 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
  • 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
  • Kubrick, Stanley; Modine, Matthew; Baldwin, Adam. (2001) Full metal jacket, [London?]: Warner Home Video. vol. Stanley Kubrick collection
  • Marianne Hirsch. (2012) The generation of postmemory: writing and visual culture after the Holocaust, New York: Columbia University Press. vol. Gender and culture
  • 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
  • Buckerfield, Lucy; Ballinger, Steve. (2019) The People's Centenary: Tracking Public Attitudes to the First World War Centenary 2013-2018: British Future.
  • Elaine Showalter. (1997) 'Gulf War Syndrome', in Hystories: hysterical epidemics and modern culture, London: Picador., pp.133-143
  • 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
  • Garland, Caroline. (1998) Understanding trauma: a psychoanalytical approach, London: Duckworth. vol. Tavistock Clinic series
  • Grinker, Roy R.; Spiegel, John P. (©1979) Men under stress, New York: Irvington Publishers.
  • Fonda, Jane; Hellman, Jerome; Ashby, Hal. (2004) Coming home, [U.K.]: MGM Home Entertainment.
  • (©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.
  • Susan Kent. (2009) 'Introduction', in Aftershocks: politics and trauma in Britain, 1918-1931, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan., pp.1-9
  • Coppola, Francis Ford; Sheen, Martin; Brando, Marlon; Duvall, Robert. (1999, c1979) Apocalypse now, [Hollywood, Calif.?]: Paramount.
  • Hoffman, Eva. (2005) After such knowledge: a meditation on the aftermath of the Holocaust, London: Vintage.
  • 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
  • Michal, Givoni. (2011) 'Witnessing/Testimony', in Mafte'akh : lexical review of political thought: Tel Aviv University. vol. 2e, pp.147-170
  • Lanzmann, Claude. (c2007) Shoah, [S.l.]: Eureka.
  • Cimino, Michael; De Niro, Robert. (c2002) The deer hunter, [London?]: Warner Bros Home Video.
  • Bion, Wilfred R.; Bion, Francesca. (1997) War memoirs, 1917-1919, London: Karnac Books.
  • Freud, Sigmund; Bell, Anthea; Robertson, Ritchie. (2013) A case of hysteria: (Dora), Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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 Weighting
Coursework   Book review    40% 
Coursework   Essay     60% 
Exam  1440 minutes during Summer (Main Period) (Main) 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
50% 50%


Coursework Exam
50% 50%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Shaul Bar Haim, email:
Dr Shaul Bar Haim
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 610 hours, 1 (0.2%) hours available to students:
609 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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