Trauma study impacts classical courses

By Lexi Salazar


A three-year study the University of the Incarnate Word is conducting about psychological trauma that results from conflict already is having an impact on current classes, its director said.

“Trauma: Conflict and Aftermath” is the focus of the study funded by a $100,000 grant the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded UIW last December.

Now halfway through its first year, the project seeks a pedagogical approach to studying trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, said Dr. Zenon Culverhouse, an assistant professor of philosophy who is directing the trauma project for the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.

Each year the project will focus on trauma in a particular population, Culverhouse said. Year one has focused on military veterans, 2017 will focus on victims of sexual violence, and the third year will focus on refugees.

Culverhouse, who has worked in ancient Greek philosophies, said Greek literature can be read as studies in combat trauma. He said he was interested in looking into how humanities might help veterans and civilians.

The project will bring in a series of speakers, open to the public as well as the UIW community. In April, author Jonathan Shay, a former psychiatrist for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, was the first guest speaker. Poet Brandon Courtney, also a military veteran, will be the next speaker this fall.DrZenon Culverhouse

The College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences will incorporate findings from the project into existing classes, and develop new classes adopting what they’ve learned, Culverhouse said.

Culverhouse said trauma does not just affect victims directly.

“PTSD, or trauma, is not just a private idiosyncratic experience,” he said. “It’s an issue on a societal level, not just an individual level.”

Culverhouse said he believes literature can be used as a form of witnessing. By using literature that talks about traumatic experiences, the university hopes to create classes and develop dialogue that can help tackle taboo topics.

“The main aim of the project is to develop in students a better ability to engage critically and thoughtfully what’s often thought to be unspeakable,” said Culverhouse.

“(The project) is primarily aimed at delving into and introducing new studies,” Culverhouse said, stressing evidence suggests psychology only addresses one aspect of trauma.

“A complex problem deserves a complex approach,” said Culverhouse.


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