Date of Award


Degree Type




First Advisor

Karem, Frederick

Subject Headings

Powers, Richard, 1957- Echo maker, Powers, Richard, 1957- -- Criticism and interpretation, Caruth, Cathy, 1955- Traumatic departures, Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939, Psychic trauma in literature, Psychological fiction, American -- History and criticism, Richard Powers, The Echo maker, Trauma, Survival, Caruth, Freud


In this study, Cathy Caruth's innovative description of trauma as a crisis of survival in works such as "Traumatic Departures: Survival and History in Freud" and Unclaimed Experience (1996) is applied to the story of Mark Schluter's traumatic experience in Richard Powers's The Echo Maker (2006). Theoretically, Caruth's description owes much to Freud's classic accounts of trauma in Beyond the Pleasure Principle (1920) and Moses and Monotheism (1939). In particular, Caruth capitalizes in on Freud's reference to the experience of awakening from traumatic unconsciousness as an "another fright" in the second section of Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Freud 11). For Caruth, the content of this second fright is the unwitting continuance of life in the face of near death experience. The narrative of Richard Powers's The Echo Maker originates in such a second fright experience. Brought close to death through a violent truck accident in the novel's introduction, Mark Schluter awakens later in the novel into a life that he no longer recognizes as his own. In particular, Capgras syndrome, a neurological condition brought on by the crash, makes it impossible for him to recognize his sister Karin as kin. Mark eventually regains recognition of his sister but tellingly only after a secondary traumatic experience involving an unsuccessful suicide attempt. In the novel's fourth section, Powers refers to Mark after his secondary trauma as "Mark Three" (Powers 414). Building upon this suggestion, this study separates The Echo Maker's Mark character into three distinct parts in light of his two most notably traumatic experiences: the crash and the suicide attempt. Using Freud's Moses and Monotheism as a structural guide, this thesis serializes Mark Schluter character in an attempt to better understand the traumatic content of his experiences before and after these traumatic experiences. Using Caruth's description of trauma as a crisis of survival, this study characterizes this content as Mark's inability to conceptualize his own surv