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Published April 12, 2019
A summer spent studying literary trauma? Caroline Fleischauer is all in.
Currently a graduate student in the University of Wyoming’s Master of Arts in English program, Fleischauer was recently accepted into Cornell University’s School of Criticism and Theory (SCT) for the 2019 summer session from June 16-July 25.
The SCT offers faculty members and advanced graduate students in the humanities and social sciences a chance to work with pre-eminent figures in critical thought -- exploring debates in and across literary studies, political theory, history, philosophy, art and anthropology. It’s a very competitive and sought-after seminar in several fields.
It’s the chance to study under a leader in her field of research that has Fleischauer excited. She is enrolled in the “Rethinking Trauma Theory” course instructed by Cornell Professor of Human Letters Cathy Caruth, who is a renowned trauma theorist.
“It is an honor to be selected, particularly at this point in my career,” Fleischauer says. “This is a unique opportunity to expand my foundational understanding of literary trauma theory, with the intention of applying what I learn at the seminar to my own future research.”
Trauma theory examines how traumatic events affect memory, consciousness and understanding of the self, according to Fleischauer. She was drawn to the field by a desire to examine the convoluted relationship between the mind and the body, and to investigate how one’s interpretation of this relationship affects how one perceives and performs the self.
Many in the field use trauma theory to better understand large-scale events, such as the Holocaust, but Fleischauer’s research is more localized, centering on the ways sexual assault affects individuals’ relationships with their minds, bodies and identities. She hopes to apply her ideas about trauma theory to research about sexual assault narratives across cultures in order to better support survivors of trauma.
Additionally, Fleischauer will have the opportunity, through the school’s weekly mini-seminars, to expand her knowledge and applications of many different brands of theory.
“As my research is currently quite interdisciplinary, I hope to take away from the school a better understanding of how theory operates beyond the parameters of a text, both in application to my research but, more importantly, in how we construct our perceptions of the world,” she says.
The adventure also is a bit of a homecoming for Fleischauer, as Cornell is located in Ithaca, N.Y., where she is from originally. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in English literature from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., she spent time in Thessaloniki, Greece, where she had a teaching fellowship at Anatolia College for a year. She anticipates graduating from UW in May, with aspirations to pursue a doctoral degree and return to teaching overseas.