31st Annual Film and Literature Conference at Florida State University; Documenting Trauma, Documenting Terror

Date: February 3 – 5, 2006
Venue: Tallahassee, FL, USA

As terms denoting psychological tates, ‘trauma’ and ‘terror’ each mark limits of expression. Representations of the traumatic past may just as easily repeat or act out an injury as resolve or work through it. Terror’s present is famously blind, unthinking, sublime. Each of these terms thus suggests a failure of representation. Yet both trauma and terror have become central to the political discussions that chart our future, discussions that often aim to solidify and make actionable the difference between perpetrators and victims, terrorists and the terrorized, inhuman atrocity and justifiable retribution. What does it mean to document trauma or terror under such historical conditions? How might attempts to work through traumas be distinguished from the act of compulsively repeating them? Can the two ever be fully distinguished? These questions have long been central to considerations of how filmmakers, writers, and artists document the Holocaust. They have been important to investigations of U.S. racism, from the Middle Passage and Indian Removal, through lynching campaigns and the internment of Japanese Americans, to more recent hate crimes. Questions about what it means to document trauma are also increasingly germane to representations of September 11, 2001. The 2006 FSU Film and Literature conference will extend these inquiries and look beyond them to considerations of many traumas and terrors.
We hope the conference will also discuss the comparative field generated by ‘trauma’ and ‘terror’ as rubrics.