Childhood Abuse in Memoir: Blaming and Forgiving Mentally Ill Abusers

In: Is this a Culture of Trauma? An Interdisciplinary Perspective
Christian Perring
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There have been many novels and memoirs telling of the experience of children who have undergone long-term abuse. The narrators generally tell their stories from the perspective of the adult looking back on their experience, and how they managed to recover from their trauma. I will examine a range of reactive attitudes of the subjects of abuse to their abusers; their emotions such as anger, resentment, betrayal, as well as forgiveness and love. I will map out the difference that mental illness makes to reactive attitudes in a variety of narratives, including Tiger, Tiger: A Memoir, by Margaux Fragoso and Running with Scissors: A Memoir by Augusten Burroughs. I will also consider to what extent such memoirs provide models for their readers to describe reactions to trauma, so that the memoir is more than just a personal record, but is also a paradigm of moral reaction that can enable readers to consider themselves part of a moral community united by traumatic experiences.

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