By Kendall Gerdes, Texas Tech University
“Super Speller” is a short video that combines testimony about the narrator’s experiences of trauma (a home burning down, an athletic injury) with moving medical images. The images are not always clearly representational, which for me at least made it easier to concentrate on the somewhat dense narration.
The conceit of the spelling bee allows the author play with repetition of the word “trauma” and to introduce definitions that are used to subdivide the video into sections. It also creates a conversation between the narrator’s voice and a sterile-sounding computer-generated voice, which has the effect of humanizing the narrator, who is only pictured through the abstract medical images.
The narration is layered with additional disembodied sounds—sirens, flames, breathing, a scream—that introduce both a bit of confusion (listeners must work to focus on the narrator’s voice) and additional meaning: the sounds signify the events being narrated, but the confusion/competition for the listener’s attention feels like a gesture toward the experience of being triggered, and being unable to separate one’s present experience from the imposition of traumatic memories.
This piece is savvy, compelling, and important: as a scholar engaged in work on trauma and on how college teachers talk about our students’ triggers, I hope my colleagues will view and engage with this outstanding student composition.