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Durham University

Department of Theology and Religion


Publication details for Dr David Janzen

Janzen, David (2019). Claimed and Unclaimed Experience: Problematic Readings of Trauma in the Hebrew Bible. Biblical Interpretation 27(2): 163-185.

Author(s) from Durham


The understanding of trauma in sociology as the group’s creation of meaning for horrific events has been highly influential in the study of the Hebrew Bible. This sociological approach is very different than that of literary criticism, where trauma is understood through the lens of psychoanalytical analysis as that which has not been fully experienced by victims and is not truly known by them, as “unclaimed experience,” in other words. The sociological understanding of trauma has helped scholars understand potential social benefits of biblical texts, but scholarship often fails to clearly distinguish this approach from that of psychoanalysis and literary criticism, and this has led to problematic claims that texts which create meaning for traumatic events will prove to be therapeutic for individual trauma sufferers. The use of texts to create meaning and explanation actually forces trauma victims to repress the speech about their trauma that they need to engage in therapy.