English, Department of


Date of this Version

Summer 5-21-2012


Lowery, Karalyne. Traumatized Voices: The Transformation of Personal Trauma into Public Writing During the Romantic Era. Diss. University of Nebraska 2012.


A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: English (Nineteenth Century Studies), Under the Supervision of Professor Stephen C. Behrendt. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2012

Copyright (c) 2012 Karalyne S. Lowery


Beginning as early as the 1790s and continuing throughout the nineteenth century, it is possible to trace in British literature a distinctive line of fascination among authors with what we now understand to be trauma and its profound effects on the lives and behaviors of it victims/survivors. With today’s neurological proof of the changes that take place in the brains of traumatized individuals, it stands to reason that these changes have taken place in every century, not just the century in which we have had the technology to view it or the vocabulary to describe it. This means that psychological trauma is biologically and psychologically universal. Using Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery and empathetic readings, this study examines the personal traumas of several authors as related in their private writings and traces the transformation of that private trauma into the authors’ published works. The study examines traumatic grief, the results of an unsuccessful grieving process, and the possible traumatic captivity of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and how they manifest in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner;” traumatic loss combined with the dissociation cultivated by William Godwin as an abused child is discussed in conjunction with the writing of Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman; Mary Shelley’s many traumatic interpersonal relationships and the unique view they provided into the victimology of Frankenstein;and the role of empathy in creating healing relationships and in recovering from traumas in the lives of Charles and Mary Lamb along with the difference between sympathy and empathy in authors. Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower My Prison” is used as the example for sympathetic writing and Charles Lamb’s “Christ’s Hospital Five and Thirty Years Ago” is used as the example of empathetic writing. As a whole, this study proposes that empathetic readings when combined with a trauma theory lens provide new insights into Romantic works.

Advisor: Stephen C. Behrendt