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Falling Out of Performance: Pragmatic Breakdown in Veterans’ Storytelling

Falling Out of Performance: Pragmatic Breakdown in Veterans’ Storytelling

Chapter:
(p.215) Chapter Ten Falling Out of Performance: Pragmatic Breakdown in Veterans’ Storytelling
Source:
Diagnosing Folklore
Author(s):
Kristiana Willsey
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496804259.003.0011

Unfortunately, coming to terms with disability and trauma are all too familiar foes for American combat veterans, many of whom receive inadequate, delayed, or nonexistent treatment options upon returning home. We conclude this volume with chapter 10, “Falling Out of Performance: Pragmatic Breakdown in Veterans’ Storytelling,” in which Kristiana Willsey provides new insights into the ways in which U.S. military veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan make meaning and process trauma through the sharing of narratives. She argues that naturalizing the labor of narrative—by assuming stories are inherently transformative, redemptive, or unifying—obscures the responsibilities of the audience as co-authors, putting the burden on veterans to both share their experiences of war, and simultaneously scaffold those experiences for an American public that (with the ongoing privatization of the military and the ever-shifting fronts of global warfare) is increasingly alienated from its military. Importantly, Willsey asserts that the public exhortations in which veterans tell their stories in an effort to cultivate a kind of cultural catharsis can put them in an impossible position: urged to tell their war stories; necessitating the careful management of those stories for audiences uniquely historically disassociated from their wars; and then conflating the visible management of those stories with the “spoiled identity” of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Keywords:   Post-traumatic stress disorder, Veterans, War stories, Stigma, Trauma

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