Graduation Date

5-2015

Document Type

Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Department or Program Chair

Chase Clow, Ph.D.

First Reader

Gay Lynch, Ph.D.

Abstract

The investigation of posttraumatic growth as a psychological principle is giving researchers new ways to understand how it is that some people seem to thrive following events that are normally perceived as tragic and wholly negative. These survivors do not just bounce back from their tragedies; the researchers describe these people as “bouncing forward” – that is, the survivors report that their lives now are profoundly better than they were before the trauma. While the psychological research into posttraumatic growth is relatively new, the field of Humanities has conducted this same inquiry for several thousand years. For example, Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” (3) and Mythology offers the example of the phoenix, the legendary bird that is reborn from the ashes of its prior life. A review of the scientific literature on posttraumatic growth and examples of that selfsame ideal embodied within the Humanities will show the intersection of these two domains. My goal is to identify sources within the Humanities canon that may potentially provide insight and inspiration to survivors and family members experiencing the acute phase of trauma, as well as the clinicians working with them in the recovery process. Ultimately, my research will demonstrate that the Humanities can help survivors, family members, and clinicians not only understand how to make sense of “what happened,” but provide fertile ground in which they might optimistically ask, “What’s next?”

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