Anti-War Activism and The Structures of Trauma in the Plays of Eve Ensler and Kathryn Blume

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the years since 2003, when President George W. Bush declared our “mission accomplished” in Iraq and veterans began their slow return home from the war on terror, the terms “trauma” and “post-traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD) have once again taken hold of the national imaginary. When PTSD was first recognized as a clinical diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association in 1980, it was typically associated with the Vietnam War’s lasting psychological effects on soldiers.1 Since then, the term has waxed and waned in popular usage, most recently surfacing again in the example of the internet circulation of George Carlin’s “Euphemism” monologue on PTSD’s linguistic distance from (and dissonance with) older, more evocative terms, such as “shell shock.” Postwar trauma has also emerged as fodder for plot lines in television shows such as ABC’s hospital drama Grey’s Anatomy, NBC’s Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, and the short-lived NBC drama simply titled Trauma, featuring a fi ctional Iraq war veteran turned emergency responder. But unlike network television’s often sensational and banal attempts to capture the resonant domestic effects of war-related trauma, the American theatre community has taken up this issue in innovative ways that both represent and critique the contemporary compulsion to find trauma everywhere and to collect and conflate its iterations. Using trauma’s psychoanalytic model as a narrative that scaffolds their work, playwrights have recently imagined the stage as a space to explore the Freudian phases of loss, repetition, and shared witnessing that constitute traumatic experience.

Original languageAmerican English
Title of host publicationPolitical and Protest Theater After 9/11: Patriotic Dissent
StatePublished - Dec 1 2011


  • Arts and Humanities
  • English Language and Literature

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