Narratives of trauma and the production of traumatized narratives as contexts for Pat Barker's 'Regeneration' trilogy
This thesis investigates the production of a progressively traumatized narrative, beginning with narrative repression in Regeneration, moving to narrative dissociation in The Eye in the Door, and ending with narrative trauma in The Ghost Road. Analysis of these texts reveals that the author's meticulous and extensive historical research brings questions of historicity to the fore, since in these novels, more research does not shore up the received narratives, rather it undoes them, leaving gaps in what had been a coherent narrative of the past. The author's innovative narrative structure embodies an early twentieth century trauma theory within itself, then uses that structure to repress its own trauma narratives. These repressed narratives constitute a subtext of unintegrated material that requires a creative act of witnessing on the part of the reader in order to fill the missing material in. As each novel moves to encompass a higher level of trauma, the narrative structure becomes progressively tenuous. The individual trauma narratives repressed from Regeneration do not significantly threaten the empiric narrative; however, by The Eye in the Door, the social trauma of the two trials is barely contained by a badly dissociated narrative. By The Ghost Road, the narrative has split into two unconnected strands, each inflected with an allegory: Lewis Carroll's alternate worlds for Billy Prior's journey back to the front, and pre-war Melanesia for W.H.R. Rivers. Each of these allegories is a site of a British national trauma, Carroll signifying child abuse and Melanesia signifying the trauma of colonialism, and, by extension, Britain's post-imperial status. As the novel's narrative structure breaks up, visual artifacts of these cultural traumas are revealed, marking them as cultural trauma memories of still ongoing traumas.