Bearing Witness to the Witness: A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Four Modes of Traumatic Testimony, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Bearing Witness to the Witness

A Psychoanalytic Perspective on Four Modes of Traumatic Testimony, 1st Edition

By Dana Amir


170 pages

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Paperback: 9781138505308
pub: 2018-09-18
Hardback: 9781138505292
pub: 2018-09-18

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Bearing Witness to the Witness examines the different methods of testimony given by trauma victims and the ways in which these can enrich or undermine the ability of the reader to witness them. Years of listening to both direct and indirect testimonies on trauma has lead Dana Amir to identify four modes of witnessing trauma: the "metaphoric mode", the "metonymic mode," the "excessive mode" and the "Muselmann mode." In doing so, the author demonstrates the importance of testimony in understanding the nature of trauma, and therefore how to respond to trauma more adequately in a clinical psychoanalytic setting.

To follow these four modes of interaction with the traumatic memory, the various chapters of the book present a close reading of three genres of traumatic witnessing: literary accounts by Holocaust survivors, memoirs (located between autobiographic recollection and fiction) and "raw" testimonies taken from Holocaust survivors. Since every traumatic testimonial narrative contains a combination of all four modes with various shifts between them, it is of crucial importance to identify the singular combination of modes that characterizes each traumatic narrative, focusing on the specific areas within which a shift occurs from one mode to another. Such a focus is extremely important, as illustrated and analyzed throughout this book, to the rehabilitation of the psychic metabolic system which conditions the digestion of traumatic materials, allowing a metaphoric working through of traumatic zones that were so far only accessible to repetition and evacuation.

Bearing Witness to the Witness will appeal to trauma researchers of all research areas, including psychologists, psychoanalysts, literary scholars as well as philosophers of language and philosophers of the mind. The book will also be of interest and relevance to clinical psychologists, psychoanalytic candidates and graduate students in literary theory and criticism.


"Taking Dana Amir’s approach as a model, a new line of inquiry, that of reconstructing the mental processes that led to the phenomena observed in the testimonies, will become evident, leading to a much deeper understanding of the experience of survival and of its aftermath. Her book is written in a prose that is almost poetry and in a language that is both strong as well as daring and imaginative."-Professor Dori Laub, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, USA

Table of Contents

Foreword by Dori Laub


1. When Language Meets the Traumatic Lacuna: Four modes of Traumatic Testimony

2. Autobiographical Fiction or Fictional Autobiography?Georges Perec's W, or the Memory of Childhood

3. The Post-Traumatic Dyad: Agota Kristof’s The Notebook

4. The Center Mode as Opposed to the Marginal Mode: Yehiel Dinur (Ka-Tzetnick)'s House of Dolls

5. Transcending the Traumatic Real: Six Variations in Six Stories by Ida Fink

6.The Traumatic Lacuna as the Negative Possession of the Other: Aharon Appelfeld’s "Bertha"

7. From the Collapse of Signifiers to the Reconstruction of Language: Robert Antelme’s The Human Race

8. The Lacuna: Reading Children's Testimonies

9. Modes of Memory, Modes of Healing

10. Awakening the Narrator: Clinical Work with Modes of Testimony

11. Epilogue: Hiroshima Mon Amour and the Command of Boundary Violation

About the Author

Dana Amir is Faculty member at Haifa University, a clinical psychologist, training and supervising psychoanalyst at the Israel Psychoanalytic Society, poetess and literature researcher. She is the author of six poetry books and two psychoanalytic books, and the winner of many national as well as four distinguished international prizes. Her papers have been published in many journals and presented in professional conferences all over the world.

About the Series

Psychoanalysis in a New Key Book Series

When music is played in a new key, the melody does not change, but the notes that make up the composition do: change in the context of continuity, continuity that perseveres through change. Psychoanalysis in a New Key publishes books that share the aims psychoanalysts have always had, but that approach them differently. The books in the series are not expected to advance any particular theoretical agenda, although to this date most have been written by analysts from the Interpersonal and Relational orientations.

The most important contribution of a psychoanalytic book is the communication of something that nudges the reader’s grasp of clinical theory and practice in an unexpected direction. Psychoanalysis in a New Key creates a deliberate focus on innovative and unsettling clinical thinking. Because that kind of thinking is encouraged by exploration of the sometimes surprising contributions to psychoanalysis of ideas and findings from other fields, Psychoanalysis in a New Key particularly encourages interdisciplinary studies. Books in the series have married psychoanalysis with dissociation, trauma theory, sociology, and criminology. The series is open to the consideration of studies examining the relationship between psychoanalysis and any other field – for instance, biology, literary and art criticism, philosophy, systems theory, anthropology, and political theory.

But innovation also takes place within the boundaries of psychoanalysis, and Psychoanalysis in a New Key therefore also presents work that reformulates thought and practice without leaving the precincts of the field. Books in the series focus, for example, on the significance of personal values in psychoanalytic practice, on the complex interrelationship between the analyst’s clinical work and personal life, on the consequences for the clinical situation when patient and analyst are from different cultures, and on the need for psychoanalysts to accept the degree to which they knowingly satisfy their own wishes during treatment hours, often to the patient’s detriment.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Movements / Psychoanalysis
PSYCHOLOGY / Grief & Loss