Reframing, Reenacting, and Recuperating: The Role of Trauma in Station Eleven

Proceedings of The 5th International Conference on Advanced Research in Social Sciences and Humanities

Year: 2022



Reframing, Reenacting, and Recuperating: The Role of Trauma in Station Eleven

Emily Guido



As a genre, apocalyptic fiction has experienced a boom in popularity in recent years. This essay focuses on representations of trauma theory in apocalyptic fiction, specifically in Emily St. John Mandel’s novel Station Eleven. Trauma theory has evolved and expanded rapidly since Freud’s original work, and applying it to apocalyptic fiction is an effective way to illuminate and extrapolate trauma theory’s more complex points. The trauma lens, in return, provides context and insight into the experiences of the characters that populate apocalyptic texts. Station Eleven covers a broad range of trauma-related experience, including multiple character viewpoints; simultaneous timelines of before, after, and long-after the end of civilization; and an ongoing debate on memory. Much of the conflict in the plot of Station Eleven mirrors the very conflict of the experience of trauma itself: it showcases the different approaches the human psyche may take in its attempt to absorb that which is unabsorbable. By exploring the relationship between trauma reactions, such as various coping mechanisms that arise, and apocalyptic fiction, it is possible to imagine how a decimated society of traumatized survivors rebuilds a world.

keywords: Apocalypse, genre, fiction, trauma.