By Paul Corcoran (auth.)
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Extra resources for Awaiting Apocalypse
To interpret the response of a mother, father, son, or daughter’s response to a communal disaster, such as a flood or a civil war, as an individual psychosis is, at the very least a reductivist fallacy. Secondly, in the face of disaster and dislocation, people may find themselves precisely by readily identifying with causes and other people. 12 To suppose that such responses are pathological, rather than the human organism’s expression of striving to endure and prevail in difficult circumstances, is, to say the very least, dubious.
Kristeva’s metaphorical madhouse, her psychoanalytic practice, is in turn collapsed into another metaphor, the apocalyptic effect of literature in tracing the diffuse borders of personal identity. ’ Yet there is every reason to suggest that Kristeva’s understanding of literature easily extends to other narrative forms. I suggest that this surely includes the story-telling of historians, no less than the rest of us who are inextricably involved in the assignment of ordinary meanings, telling stories, fashioning ‘personal histories,’ and making sense of our world.
Clearly there is a pathology characteristic of such circumstances, when people are overcome by grief, fear, pain and a sudden loss of the routine. Yet by accepting that, are we entitled to say that breakdown is ‘normal,’ natural or characteristically human? Perhaps an apt analogy to this question is the case of bravery or signal heroism in military combat, as contrasted with those who experience ‘shell shock’ or simply lose their capacity for action, judgment, and obedience. Veterans of combat might well observe that neither response is ‘normal,’ and that the ‘average’ soldier is neither a brave hero nor shell-shocked, but rather someone who just keeps moving, does his job, tries to cover his backside, doesn’t let his battalion down.