Discover how the history of trauma has shaped how we view PTSD at next Conversations series event May 12

The Dittrick Medical History Center & Museum will continue its Conversations series Thursday, May 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence’s Seminar Room in the Tinkham Veale University Center.

The talk, titled “The End of the World as We Know It,” will address post-traumatic stress disorder, shock and conflict.

In 1865, a train carrying author Charles Dickens jumped a gap in the tracks and plunged into a river gorge. Dickens helped to save passengers and behaved with “remarkable self-possession” during the incident. But shortly after returning to London, he suffered terrors he described as “unreasonable but insurmountable.”

Though apparently unharmed, Dickens lost his voice after the accident, and claimed later that he felt as though he had someone else’s voice rather than his own. There are two Dickens here: the “self-possessed” man and the “someone else” that Dickens himself does not entirely recognize.

This perilous division haunted him for the rest of his life, the inheritance of trauma.

The latter half of the 19th century saw its share of traumatic incidents, and theorists and physicians tried hard to understand how trauma damaged or affected the mind.

At the same time, however, the Victorians emphasized individual willful control in the face of catastrophe–an expectation that affected how patients were treated. These experiences of trauma only grew more devastating with the first and second World Wars. Shell shock—what today we recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder—changed the way we understood trauma and the self, though the condition remains widely misunderstood.

With the advent of weapons of mass destruction, nations, soldiers and everyday individuals saw the “end of the world” as they knew it—a form of trauma that was not always visible, but which became deeply woven into the modern experience.

Brandy Schillace, research associate and public engagement fellow at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History, will lead the conversation and Shannon French, the Inamori Professor of Ethics, will be a discussion panelist.

Registration is available online.