- Paperback: 184 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (October 26, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0691115702
- ISBN-13: 978-0691115702
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,694 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Aftermath: Violence and the Remaking of a Self Paperback – October 26, 2003
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"An illuminating study. . . . Restrained, lucid, and elegant, Aftermath is a testament to endurance and, ultimately, survival. Susan Brison charts the disintegration of identity that occurs after sexual violence, and the long and arduous journey back toward a new self."---Jo Ann Beard, O: The Oprah Magazine
"An intellectually stimulating read. . . . Brison's reflections . . . will resonate with anyone who has experienced great pain and suffering, as well as with the people who love and care for them. . . . This is a brave and inspiring book . . . [which] goes far beyond typical memoirs of surviving dreadful circumstances." (Publishers Weekly)
"Aftermath is an affecting and spirited record of how [Brison] managed, with great difficulty, to put [her life] back together, but in new and unexpected forms. . . . [It] works as the story of a life pulled back from the brink because, at its best, it exemplifies its own arguemnt for the lasting power of narrative."---Martin Levin, Toronto Globe and Mail
"[A] wise and extremely moving reflection on [individual trauma]."---Patricia J. Williams, The Nation
"Brison's personal narrative and research on surviving rape will attract broad readership, and the more philosophical reflections will attract those interested in a multidisciplinary look at how individuals and society cope with the threat and reality of violence. A courageous work on how society treats trauma victims and how trauma victims can reclaim the recovery process and their lives." (Booklist)
"Brison's descriptions of the horrors of the first weeks after the assault are absorbing and perceptive. . . . [She] is no less engaging when she examines the literature of trauma, victimization and recovery. . . . [An] inspiring volume."---Mimi Wesson, Women's Review of Books
"How do you cope with the catastrophic calamity of sexual assault and near murder if you are a philosopher dedicated to rational discourse? Those are the questions posed by [author] Brison in a poignant account. . . . A moving diary of personal trauma and recovery." (Kurkus Reviews)
"I think this is a great book--I use those words sparingly--deeply revealing and fundamentally pessimistic. It is more painful and far less sentimental than Anne Frank's diary."---Jonathan Mirsky, The Spectator
"Susan Brison's Aftermath is a moving personal narrative of a harrowing experience. It is at the same time a thought-provoking philosophical reflection of broad interdisciplinary interest, particularly for the study of trauma and narrative. In both respects, it helps the reader to understand with greater insight and compassion the uneven, arduous movement from victim to survivor and agent in the aftermath of traumatic violence."―Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University, author of Writing History, Writing Trauma and History and Memory after Auschwitz
"In Aftermath, Susan Brison dares to cross personal experience with philosophy, proving her point that the only real way to make sense of trauma is to pay attention to, and respect, actual trauma experienced by actual people. This book is an act of personal and intellectual courage, allowing reason, at last, to triumph over tradition."―Helen Benedict, author of Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes and Recovery: How to Survive Sexual Assault
From the Back Cover
"Susan Brison's Aftermath is a moving personal narrative of a harrowing experience. It is at the same time a thought-provoking philosophical reflection of broad interdisciplinary interest, particularly for the study of trauma and narrative. In both respects, it helps the reader to understand with greater insight and compassion the uneven, arduous movement from victim to survivor and agent in the aftermath of traumatic violence."--Dominick LaCapra, Cornell University, author of Writing History, Writing Trauma and History and Memory after Auschwitz
"In Aftermath, Susan Brison dares to cross personal experience with philosophy, proving her point that the only real way to make sense of trauma is to pay attention to, and respect, actual trauma experienced by actual people. This book is an act of personal and intellectual courage, allowing reason, at last, to triumph over tradition."--Helen Benedict, author of Virgin or Vamp: How the Press Covers Sex Crimes and Recovery: How to Survive Sexual Assault
"In this wonderfully illuminating book, Susan Brison demonstrates that, in the right hands, the personal is . . . philosophical. Brison's narrative art shows how violence can damage a self and reveals much about the social goods required for moral personhood."--Jonathan Shay, M.D., Ph.D., author of Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America
"By facing what follows from traumatic abuse without blinking, by refusing to forget that the world can never be as it was, Susan Brison's shatteringly insightful Aftermath reconstructs philosophy as she reinvents survival."--Catharine MacKinnon, University of Michigan and the University of Chicago
"This book is well written, widely accessible, and vastly important for many, many people in and outside philosophy. It is also a book that will contribute to a much-needed transformation of philosophy itself. The author's narrative is gripping, admirably direct, concise, and never self-indulgent. As tricky as it is to take yourself as a 'cas'' to probe the notion of self in philosophy, the author's success in doing so is total. The outcome is a unique and founding work that deserves to be made available quickly and put at the disposal of a very large public."--Mieke Bal, University of Amsterdam
"Aftermath gave me hours of good reading and thinking. Clearly and beautifully written, it crosses disciplinary boundaries and will make an important contribution to feminist thinking, moral philosophy, and the literature on trauma. Any serious reader could be moved and provoked by it."--Sara Ruddick, author of Maternal Thinking: Toward a Politics of Peace
"A triumph of beauty and understanding in the face of unspeakable horror."--Andrea Ashworth, author of Once in a House on Fire
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As for the book itself...it is a tough book to review. For one thing, it is several books in one. It is a survivors memoir, it is an exploration of the literature on trauma, it speaks to the androcentrism of the legal system and it is a critique of contemporary analytical philosophy.
The core of any reaction has to be to Brison's story of her assault. It is a nightmarish story told plainly and eloquently and it hurts to read it at times. One of the most impressive (by which I guess I mean intellectually and emotionally courageous)things about it is her refusal to put a bow on it. This is a book written over about ten years and it shows in her constant rethinking of the assault and its aftermath. She is careful not to give her story any universal meaning but she insists that we take its particularity in its full impact.
I would like to speak to some of the philosophical points she makes because I believe she means them very seriously and because I believe that philosophy needs to focus on issues like sexual violence in order to move past a sort of dead end that it has gotten itself into. Brison's reflections on her rape shames much of contemporary analytical philosophy by exposing its aridity, its unwillingness to get involved in life, in sex, in politics.
One of Brison's points is the weirdness (philosophical zombies, interrupted teletransportation) of the sort of thought experiment that are considered canonical in investigating the sense of self, etc.
"Given philosophers' preoccupation with personal identity in extreme, life-threatening, and possible self-annihilating situations, it is odd that they have neglected to consider the accounts of actual trauma victims who report that they are not the same people they were prior to their traumatic transformations." (p.38)
The quote I use as my title expresses the self-annihilation of one rape victim. Brison reports throughout her book of the loss of her sense of self, of her place in the world, of her history, of her social self. In fact Brison concludes toward the end of her book that she now believes that our selves are fractured and multifarious. Her rape destroyed the natural, the human and the social glue that held it all together. One impressive thing about her is that now seems able to have reinvented/reinvested that self while holding those fractures in view. This woman does not hide from her own insights. I should have such strength.
The point I wish to make to my fellow philosophical types is that by following Brison's suggestion we base our investigations on the sort of issues that are really happening to people and the result could be that people we actually find the results of those investigations more interesting and empowering to their lives. The trick, of course, will be to not reduce these histories to case studies but to continue to insist on the full particularity of its horror.
One last point I want to make. I was pleased to read her discussion of the positive impact that her martial arts study had on her recovery. I studied the arts for about 14 years and spent about half that time teaching.
One of the things that struck me with my female students was something that typically happened about a year in to their study. They were beginning to get pretty powerful at that point and a lot of women would start having issues with controlling the intensity of their strikes. My theory was that the example that a lot of men in their lives or that society at large had given them was that 1. powerful fighting movement is associated with anger and 2. women should be neither angry or powerful. The result is that a lot of women stuff their anger until they started to learn to move powerfully and then a that stuffed anger would come flowing out. After a few months of pounding on me they would naturally get back into fighting with control. All in all, it was pretty fun to watch that progress.
My point is simply that I would suggest to any woman to find a comfortable and gradient martial arts school in which to train. At their best, they are empowering communities where the individuals lift the group and the group the individuals.
As for Brison, I cannot recommend this book enough. There are some lines that should never be crossed and yet are crossed all the time. Brison reminds us how devastating that fact is.