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Popular Trauma Culture: The Pain of Others Between Holocaust Tropes and Kitsch-Sentimental Melodrama

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Abstract

Popular trauma culture emerged when American collective memory transformed the Holocaust from an event in European history into a metaphor for evil and generated the narrative paradigm—the basic plot structure and core set of characters—for representing experiences of pain and suffering in the mass media. Constructed around a melodramatic conflict of good-versus-evil that is embodied in the flat characters of the victim-cum-survivor and the perpetrator, the paradigmatic narratives of victimhood and survival, suffering, and redemption encode an escapist and politically acquiescing kitsch sentimentality as the dominant mode of reception. After tracing the emergence of popular trauma culture’s exemplary plot paradigm and cast of characters in American Holocaust discourse, this chapter explores the transition from the victim to the survivor figure as the preeminent protagonist and the transformation of witness testimony into victim talk. Subsequently, it examines melodrama as the dominant narrative mode of representing experiences of victimization and suffering and the kitsch sentimentality they encode as their paradigmatic mode of reception. This chapter concludes with a discussion of consuming trauma kitsch as fantasies of witnessing in a dubious search for late-modernity’s holy grail of authenticity.

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... In this way, it seems important to remark that people have been exposed to death at close quarters during the Covid-19 outbreak, whether it be from a family member, a neighbor, an acquaintance, including children who may not understand what happens to those people or health workers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorders (3). Given that different or common country measures were applied worldwide, studies across different nations allow, not only the understanding of our own nation externally, but also other internal processes, where, to some extent, the country in which they are born (4) and therefore the human expression of pain is influenced by the product of culture, customs or symbols among others (5,6). ...
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