JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004 Page: 294
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tations of sublimity or stagings of accident feel out the frightening
possibilities of history's meaninglessness. Each of these gothic perspec-
tives exerts pressure upon the stability of notions of national identity and
belonging in the wake of the Spanish Civil War.
The Devil's Backbone also explores the multigenerational trauma of
that war. It focuses on children-orphaned children-as mediators ofthe
catastrophic effects of war upon the psyche, especially the boys Jaim6 and
Carlos.3 They are survivors. Even the ghost Santi is one, for the ghost is
a figure for the survivor per se, reliving, reenacting, and sharing aspects
of the unassimilable as a shared hallucination, which comes unbidden and
seems to possess the children. By mediating the Spanish Civil War
through the vocabulary of childhood trauma, however, the film also
insists that this past is more "accessible" through children's eyes, as
beings whose underdeveloped egos (and weaker defense mechanisms)
render them particularly susceptible and sensitive both to traumatic
memory's durability and intrusiveness and to what escapes rational
comprehension or control. It is with them that the audience is asked to
identify. Further, in showing how even the most "innocent" of popula-
tions turns to aggression and brutality, the film underscores the extent and
depth of the war's depredations upon the collective, national conscious-
ness. Finally, the emphasis on a disaster visiting the young (without
parents) points allegorically to the vulnerable status of Spain's fledging
democracy. While the Civil War is out of the realm of experience except
for the most elderly populations of Spain, The Devil's Backbone suggests
that this era, which represents Spain's first attempt at democracy,
continues to stand as a disavowed core of national identity, whose
pathological dissociation is less about survival than a simple will-to-
forget a violence that turned a nation's political factions, and conse-
quently its citizens, against themselves.4 For the filmmaker, clearly
sympathetic to the republicans, this violence created "corrosive commu-
nities," afflicted communities set apart because of what they experienced
but of which they were not permitted to speak: in essence, having to deal
on their own with the traumas of the civil war period, while the rest of the
nation denied them and "moved on."' Del Toro creates a political bond
between the present and this period, in effect "passing on ... a crisis but
also... passing on... a survival that can only be possessed with a history
larger than any single individual or any single generation" (Caruth,
Unclaimed 71). Witnessing this kind of trauma depends upon a later
generation, his own in fact, and implies a dual responsibility: to the dead
and to the multiple generations of survivors, including, but not restricted
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Association of Teachers of Advanced Composition (U.S.). JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, Volume 24, Number 2, 2004, periodical, 2004; (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc28644/m1/40/: accessed June 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .