Scholars tracing the genealogy of trauma generally place its emergence in the 1870s, when the condition began to be conceptualized as mental rather than physical injury, treatable through psychological measures. This essay locates a complicating earlier engagement. Oliver Wendell Holmes’s The Guardian Angel (1867), Louisa May Alcott’s Hospital Sketches (1863), and Walt Whitman’s war entries in Specimen Days (from 1863) represent mental breakdown but propose a radically different therapy: the mind may be healed by acquiescing to the body’s physiological functions. This therapy is recommended in the course of narratives that are insistently conclusive, without the fragmentation usually assumed to distinguish representations of trauma. Thus, this essay challenges the premise that narratives of trauma formally resemble the condition’s broken mind, instead imagining how such texts may be analogized to the organic body.

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