Repetition Compulsion, Mastery, and the Question of Literature

The following lecture, which met my oral examination requirement at the University of Kentucky, was later presented at the 2014 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Indianapolis. Feel free to put this work to use in your own research with attribution as is applicable.

It explores three primary works: Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), Willa Cather’s My Ántonia (1918), and Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), applying a range of psychoanalytic and trauma theorists’ perspectives to the phenomena of repetition compulsion, mastery, and the death drive as they occur in the texts. From there, the lecture continues, revealing through literary analysis how societal repression is often informed by the racial, social, and gendered aspects of trauma

Download as a PDF Here.

You can also listen to the presentation by clicking play below. Just scroll down the page as the audio file progresses to listen alongside the accompanying PowerPoint slides.








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Travis L. Martin, PhD, is founding director of the Kentucky Center for Veterans Studies at Eastern Kentucky University. He has established several nationally recognized programs to support returning veterans in higher education and the non-profit sector. A scholar of American literature, psychoanalytic trauma theory, and social theory, Dr. Martin presents frequently at conferences and universities. He has published dozens of research articles and creative short works on veterans’ issues. A former sergeant in the U.S. Army, he served during two deployments in the Iraq War (2003-04 & 2005). His book War and Homecoming: Veteran Identity and the Post-9/11 Generation was published with the University Press of Kentucky in 2022. He resides in Richmond, KY.