What is healing theory?
Healing theory is my literary theory combining applications of the twenty-first century school of thought known as futurity – a burgeoning field of literary study, pioneered by Amir Eshel, responding to mid-to-late twentieth century trauma theory – with elements of nineteenth century Emersonian transcendentalism.
What does healing theory argue?
Healing theory’s goal is to recover from the cultural and political trauma we have sustained, and re-establish within the individual (and consequently the community) a sense of purpose and meaning based on the classical ideals and virtues as they had once been communicated to us via our cultural/ethical narratives. In other words, the individual reclaims agency by acting on the influence of those futurity-and-humanity building virtues that exercise hope, faith, courage, and goodness.
This recovery does not deny trauma, nor the scars it leaves behind on cultural or personal levels. However, just as with the healing body, the scars can serve to strengthen the whole. Through healing theory’s acknowledgement of trauma, we are now quite capable of recovering – re-establishing ourselves, our purpose, our meaning —should we so choose, with more foresight and anticipation of the dangers that can threaten the unity we are so carefully desiring and reconstructing within the individual, the community, and in our cultural texts. As healing theory suggests, it is possible to move forward from our cultural place of trauma; we move forward to a space where the trauma isn’t forgotten, but neither does it continually inhibit and incapacitate us. Rather, it has the potential to work for us by reminding us what/who we can become, and helps us value and defend that which we wish to preserve.
Ultimately, what is at stake and what healing theory seeks to explore/communicate is our recollection and claim to what Marilynne Robinson refers, in her collection of essays entitled The Giveness of Things, “the reverence for who we are and what we are, on the sacredness implicit in the human circumstance” (286). Or, as I apply Emerson in his essay “New England Reformers,” regarding healing in finding sacredness of our human circumstance:
When the literary class betray a destitution of faith, it is not strange that society should be disheartened and sensualized by unbelief. What remedy? Life must be lived on a higher plane. We must go up to a higher plane, to which we are always invited to ascend; there, the whole aspect of things changes […] That which befits us, embosomed in beauty and wonder as we are, is cheerfulness and courage, and the endeavor to realize our aspirations.