Each “rhythmic signature” sets up its own holding environment. The intuition, here, is that care may be traumatizing and trauma sustaining: in aesthetic objs, but also elsewhere. Not that it even necessarily makes sense to talk about trauma vis a vis the surface excitations of sensation fiction: what if there’s only surface? And the sensations are addictive (not to say pleasurable) bc their claim on attention overpowers any associativity (any fantasy, for Poe) beyond the confrontation with the hallucinatorily raw thing. Detective novels solicit a kind of attention that maps an epistemophilic drive onto the narrative patterning of sensation. Excitation maps onto the epistemic sequence. In Berenice there is no epistemic sequence and indeed no sequence at all: just recursive deduction. Maybe sensation is perverse here precisely because it doesn’t associate off into fantasy. Nevertheless, investigating how a holding environment holds together minor traumas (of unwilling / premonitory excitation by exposure to a secret order) may help to model the temporality of form in these novels even if it would fail to do justice to their synchronic planes of details. The point of this re-description is to cast light on an affective structure that, in its contemporaneity with hydraulic models of excitation, strangely anticipates (if distantly, tenuously) the psychic economy invoked by theories of trauma.
What’s interesting about suspense is that it holds you in the affect of nervously waiting for the disclosure of a secret. In this way it may be said to resemble a “pre-traumatic stress” syndrome: if, that is, it wouldn’t be anachronistic to put it this way.
Yet trauma, insofar as it follows the logic of Nachträglichkeit, is constitutively backward-acting, and therefore anachronistic, which is to say it “happens” neither in the scene A, whose physical sequence of actions claims medico-juridical priority as evidence, nor in scene B, whose fantasmic reiteration of that sequence posits it as a sequence of excitations not posited as such at the time but recognized as such now.
Does that license a psychoanalytic account to dehistoricize its object? Not at all: between the scene of historicity A and the scene of “contemporaneity” (which, technically is really the assumption that psychoanalytic language has a historicity that can be bracketed for heuristic reasons) B is where the work of accounting for the trauma must happen. It would only be dehistoricizing if one simply let scene B map its categories seamlessly onto the account of scene A. Historicizing, in this case, would mean letting the granularity of physical sequence in A transform the fantasmatic condensation of that sequence into a set of triggering “features” (removed metonymically from the scene) in scene B.
With that out of the way, (and I think this is likely basically what Valerie Rohy argues), anachronism is perhaps less of a specter on analyses of historical artifacts. So about pre-traumatic stress syndrome : here Saint-Amour historicizes, rigorously, the notion of trauma by reference to an event called the Blitz. My sense, though, is that even before the Blitz, trauma is always already both “pre-traumatic” (scene A, with its “obscure premonition” of a seduction) and “post-traumatic” (scene B, with its irrational burst of affect at features that recall the body to an excitation that never happened) — but, for that very reason, not traumatic. No present tense — this is familiar stuff.
What would distinguish the pre-traumatic, in Saint-Amour’s usage, is perhaps the world-historical scope of the Blitz’s paranoiac demolitions of interiors. That is, weaponizing the air-raid alarm makes trauma more like a public environment of unlocatable / non-present threat and less like a series of discrete events that could ever be referred to any one physical sequence. No scene A or scene B could stay discrete on the scene of every interior’s actual demolition (and not just the demolition or seduction of the figure of the “I” on that scene; the scene itself comes apart into nth iterations of what hasn’t happened yet).
Laplanche’s point is that every instance of care is also an instance of traumatization insofar as the parent’s fantasies structure (which is to say, pervert) how they address the child’s functional needs. Oedipal triangles go back generations. Each parent had parents of their own. So every act of care, addressed as they necessarily are to erotogenic zones, is also the enactment of the parent’s fantasy of being cared for — caressed, nourished, stimulated, etc. And in enacting this fantasy they subject the child to an adult world whose erotic significance will only become apparent later. In this way one might generalize some parts of a historicist account of pre-traumatic stress — for instance, if it claims to be environmental and therefore not event-based — and thereby subsume it under trauma as such — because trauma, for Laplanche at least, is as much a condition of being sustained as it is a non-event between two events that associate but can’t converge. What doesn’t generalize are, I think, the conditions of demolition: walls don’t implode, and sirens don’t threaten that implosion, the same way everywhere and every time. So the Blitz as an event sets up a condition specified as pre-traumatic and not just traumatic because it puts the scene itself, not just the figure in the scene, under threat.