Semester of Graduation

Spring 2018


Master of Arts (MA)



Document Type



This thesis examines the phenomenology of trauma as expressed in the memoirs of three Holocaust survivors, Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, and Viktor Frankl. This phenomenology of trauma that we find in the record of their lived experience is a suffering that encompasses the confrontation with death, of waiting, the breakdown of time, the body, and ultimately, self. I argue that Trauma destroys the experience of Time but it is through narrative that we reconstruct the self. Looking at the philosophy of Existentialism, I consider the Romantic spirit, which I define, and the poetic provides examples for, as an emotive, intuitive force, or will, that aims to preserve and position the individual in instances of experience, and of measuring between the gods, in a spacing where self-mastery may be obtained. I consider the Romantic spirit and its role in conceptualizing a mythos for understanding the relationship between self and the world, particularly self in the world. I argue that as myth is a construct for understanding human experience, the act of narration is the unifying link between our intuitive and rational orienting of self in the world. The act of memoir writing understood in context with the philosophy of Existentialism work together by attempting to restore a sense of linearity between self and Time through subjectivity. Here, trauma removes the self from Time and posits the self in a space of waiting. The Romantic Spirit, as evidenced through our relationship with the symbolic, particularly language, embody the creative process and merge the physical and intuitive representations of Being in the world. We witness in Wiesel, Levi, and Frankl the experience of waiting as an existential moment that only achieves movement through the act of writing where the self can reposition itself within Time.



Committee Chair

Raffoul, Francois



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