Autobiography and Narrative Resilience

Narrative, Memory and PTSD. A Case Study of Autobiographical Narration After Trauma




restorative narratives, cognitive narratology, autobiographical writing, narrative identity, post-trauma writing


This paper argues that by structuring potentially traumatising memories through narration, autobiographical storytelling reduces the experience of contingency, supports narrators in regaining feelings of autonomy and thus enables traumatised individuals to complete their otherwise potentially incomplete autobiography. Post-trauma writing carries the chance to re-articulate highly emotional experiences with formerly 'random or isolated events' into a meaningful storyline. The effects of highly emotionally experienced trauma decrease and enable the individual to continue narration about their present and potential future. A case study of a veteran autobiography is used to emphasise the meaning of autobiographical writing when individuals suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). This paper is particularly relevant in times where war and terror are frequently not just communicated through the media but are experienced by millions of people worldwide. At the same time, it is a contribution to the rapidly developing field of Cognitive Narratology and Restorative Narratives.

Author Biography

Deborah de Muijnck, RWTH Aachen University, Germany

Deborah de Muijnck is a research and teaching fellow at the Department of English Literature and at the Aachen Center for Cognitive and Empirical Literary Studies (ACCELS), RWTH Aachen, Germany.  She holds a B.A. in Cultural Studies & Literature, Psychology, and Linguistics, and an M.A. in English Studies and Communication Studies. She is currently concluding her dissertation titled ‘Cultural Models of Narrative Identity: The Case of Military Autobiographical Writing’, in which she explores how soldiers and veterans reconstruct their narrative identity after war experience through non-fictional, autobiographical storytelling. She is the author of When Breath Becomes Air: Constructing Stable Narrative Identity During Terminal Illness (2019), and Co-Author of Methods of Reception Theory and Cognitive Approaches - From Reception Aesthetics to Cognitive Poetics (2021). In 2019, she presented her paper on Mission Narratives at the Narratives of Displacement Conference, St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, and in 2020 her paper on Autobiographical Storytelling during Terminal Illness at the Narrative2020 conference in New Orléans.





Autobiography and Narrative Resilience