Dissent as Therapy: The Case of the Veterans of the American War in Vietnam
AbstractMost of the fiction that was produced by soldier-writers after the American War in Vietnam has been characterized as therapeutic, with its main objective understood to be healing the wounds caused by the traumatic experience of war. This approach has tended to individualize the experience of particular soldier-writers and to conceive of their fiction as a substitute for psychoanalytic therapy, hence cancelling, in the same maneuver, its political agency. By emphasizing the individual process of overcoming “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” the critical work analyzing the production of these authors has, intentionally or not, obscured the larger political project by which these writers were literally putting their bodies on the line. In their physical and psychological fragmentation, those bodies became the locus of the struggle to establish a new definition of national identity, at a time when the concept had become unstable to say the least. The aim of this article is to return to the fore an emphasis on the politics of dissent in the study of US Vietnam War cultural production.
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