Grain Ethics: Voyeurism, Violence, and Traumatic Memory in Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You”

by Sarah Hildebrand

Note: Page numbers from the print version are indicated in brackets and should not be considered part of the text of the article.

Abstract: [page 27] This article analyzes how memory-enhancing technology may serve to perpetuate trauma and enable new forms of gender-based violence. By drawing on the fields of trauma theory and memory studies, it critiques the alleged objectivity of digitized vs. organic memories by exposing the power dynamics at play during acts of witnessing. This article conducts a close-reading of the Black Mirror episode “The Entire History of You” in order to reveal how biotechnology can increase the vulnerability of female bodies. In a society where memories can be digitally preserved and projected on-screen for both private and public viewing, instances of the male gaze are amplified and the conditions necessary for consent disappear, increasing the risk of physical and psychical violation.

Keywords: Black Mirror, gender, memory, technology, trauma, voyeurism, violence

Pointing to our heavy reliance on technology, literary and cultural theorists have been claiming for decades that we are already posthuman, already cyborgs.1 Season one, episode three of Black Mirror, “The Entire History of You,” moves this concept from theory to practice. In this fictional universe, the “grain”—a technological device that serves as a hard drive for organic memories—has become widely accepted as a necessary addition to the human body. Gifting characters with preternatural recall by storing digitized copies of their memories, which can be replayed and shared on demand, the grain operates as a new form of both telling and bearing witness. Given the importance of memory-sharing in the construction of the self and the development of relationships, and also the difficulty of translating memories—particularly traumatic ones—into narrative, the visual nature of the grain’s memory-sharing capabilities offers possibilities for increased self-awareness, intimacy, and opportunities for healing.2 [page 28] Throughout “The Entire History of You,” memories from the grain at times function as forms of entertainment, bonding, and nostalgic reminiscing. When describing past events, characters are able to project them on screen for their friends or partners—to both tell and show, and by doing so allow for multiple modes of understanding. However, many uses of the grain are less benign. By documenting the entirety of a user’s life, as well as those around them, the grain allows for a new form of access to others, raising issues of consent and forcing viewers to question the ethics of retaining the entirety of their timelines, which also entails maintaining access to the timelines of others. This issue becomes especially pronounced when characters admit to replaying sexually explicit memories as pornography. Rather than enhancing intimacy, the grain is used to abuse it by breaching privacy and facilitating voyeurism. Characters are also susceptible to “gouging”—the forced removal of the grain—which violates both the body and mind of the victim as skin is cut to access the device and memories are stolen to be replayed without consent. Although the grain could be used to ameliorate part of the difficulty of “telling” trauma by offering a new, more visual narrative mode, it more often serves as a source of trauma itself and a reason why some—particularly female—voices go unheard. As an extension of the human body, the grain allows for new forms of violence and violation, which frequently underscore the power dynamics at play between differently gendered bodies.

“The Entire History of You” centers around its protagonist Liam, who uses the grain technology to enable his obsession with his wife’s infidelity. This small device, which looks like a grain of rice, is implanted just behind the ear and accessed via remote control. It allows characters to “redo”—the episode’s term for replay—memories within their minds, share them with others on-screen, or even erase the digitized versions, all with a swipe of the thumb. Throughout the episode, viewers follow Liam as he joins his wife Fi at a party and becomes increasingly fixated on mining the grain for data concerning her relationship with another guest, named Jonas. The grain is used as a mode of surveillance and acts to feed Liam’s jealousy, ultimately leading him to lash out at Fi, Jonas, and himself. Meanwhile, the politics of the grain and of “going grainless” are discussed at the party in ways that hint at how this piece of technology generates ethical controversy and [page 29] influences the perception and treatment of women. Each character’s unique use of the grain combines to create a narrative in which the role of memory becomes increasingly powerful and divisive, ultimately serving to interrogate the value of forgetting.

Early within the episode, the grain is referred to in relation to its more sexually explicit content, raising issues around consent and violation. During the dinner party, Jonas discusses how he used to masturbate to redos of “hot times” with girls from earlier relationships while his current partner waited for him in bed. Although Lucy, the party’s host, softly cautions him in an attempt to keep the conversation appropriate, Jonas overrides her, following up by asking, “Come on, guys, I mean we all scroll through the grain rifling through our greatest hits for a little bit of filth now and then surely?” Jonas openly admits to turning his sexual memories into pornography. His past relationships and one night stands are boiled down to “filth,” formulated as dirty rather than intimate. By describing scrolling through the grain as “rifling,” he equates his search to flipping through channels on a television set or pages of a magazine, breezing past the rest of his memories, which are comparatively uninteresting and of limited value. His non-rhetorical questioning of his audience implies this is something all men, or perhaps all people, do, and he invites his audience to back him up and justify his behaviors as culturally normative. Although the guests had laughed along at first and one man, Jeff, still smirks, many begin to look uncomfortable or disapproving. Fi and Hallam stare at him blankly, with Hallam quickly jumping in to say, rather seriously, “Not me.”

However, while Jonas has certainly created an awkward tension within the room, making the women, in particular, uncomfortable with the way that he discusses his past partners, the larger issue at stake here has more to do with what his actions imply about memory retention and its implications for those in absentia. The fact that memories can be replayed on demand and that Jonas uses them pornographically raises issues of consent. While his encounters may have been consensual at the time when they were recorded, by cinematically redoing these memories, he turns women into objects and gains a strange form of perpetual access to their bodies; he continues to use them for sexual purposes well into the future. Although even those without a grain retain organic memories of relationships beyond their expiration, there is [page 30] something notably different about having those moments digitally preserved, knowing that they can be both privately and publicly screened.

In this way, the grain facilitates voyeurism. Memories are made cinematic and replayed in acts of scopophilia. In her seminal essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” which draws on psychoanalytic theory to craft a feminist film theory, Laura Mulvey writes, “As an advanced representation system, the cinema poses questions of the ways the unconscious (formed by the dominant order) structures ways of seeing and pleasure in looking” (2), describing the ways that culture influences the construction of cinematic narrative and definitions of the pleasurable. Black Mirror’s “The Entire History of You” functions as cinema in two ways. The show itself is an example of a moving picture, while it is also premised on a technological innovation that turns memories into cinematic features, which are played on-screen by and for other characters. Viewers watch the show, and also watch characters watching. This creates multiple layers of spectatorship, each of which suggests how “ways of seeing and pleasure in looking” are “formed by the dominant order”—in this case, a heterosexual, patriarchal society. Almost the entirety of the episode is portrayed through the male gaze, namely from the perspective of Liam, with allusions to the voyeuristic enterprises of other male characters, such as Jonas. Women are objectified for the pleasure of men both on and off-screen as viewers are given access to some erotic memories and invited to imagine others. In describing some of “the pleasurable structures of looking” in cinema, Mulvey defines the “scopophilic” as that which “arises from pleasure in using another person as an object of sexual stimulation through sight” (3). In redoing his memories as pornography, Jonas takes scopophilia to an extreme, deriving multiple forms of pleasure that extend beyond the strictly ocular. He has no qualms about using his memories in a literally masturbatory way, making other guests cringe as he talks candidly about “pulling himself off.” And although Jonas’s anecdotes may make some of the guests uncomfortable, none of them directly confront his behavior or ask him to switch subjects. Even if they disagree with his actions, they are unwilling to voice their dissatisfaction, enabling his behavior and tacitly accepting this particular use of representations of the female body. [page 31]

Yet Jonas is not the episode’s only voyeur. Liam is also shown playing redos and freezing frames of Fi erotically holding his gaze. At times, she is shown looking directly at him (who is also the camera), implicating both himself and viewers in the voyeuristic act. Liam himself reads Fi’s gaze as erotic, obsessing over the way that she looks at Jonas. And when he begins redoing his own pleasurable memories of her at the end of the episode, each one involves her “looking” at him—they lock eyes after kissing; she looks at him from across the kitchen counter, smiling; she approaches him, getting so near that all that Liam (along with viewers) sees is a close-up of her eyes. Although Mulvey’s observations about visual pleasure in cinema are directed at mainstream Hollywood films of the 1950s, they are equally relevant to this early 21st-century television series, which portrays gendered bodies in frighteningly similar ways. Women take on the “traditional exhibitionist role…simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact” made to satisfy male desire, while “the male figure cannot bear the burden of sexual objectification,” becoming instead “the active one… forwarding the story, making things happen” (4). This contrast in the sexualization of differently gendered characters becomes clear when comparing depictions of Fi and Jonas. When Liam redos a memory of himself and Fi lying in bed together talking, Fi is overtly sexualized. The scene is extended, and the gaze does not shift away from Fi’s naked body, censored only by bedsheets. She looks directly at Liam/the camera, placing the viewers themselves on the receiving end of her gaze. She strokes his face and coyly smiles. The frame freezes on her gaze at the end of the redo. In contrast, when Liam eventually forces Fi to redo her memory of having sex with Jonas, although the memory’s content is more sexually explicit than Liam’s, the aesthetic form that it takes is not. The images on-screen continue to cater to the sexual desire of heterosexual men even as the gaze through which the scene is shown is now female, unfolding literally through the eyes of Fi. This memory allows less time to look. Jonas is shown on-screen for only a second or two as he steps out of his pants before the camera moves quickly away, returning to show viewers the present interaction between Fi and Liam. Viewers experience the rest of the redo as strictly auditory. The sounds of moaning are heard, but they do not see what happens. Jonas remains far less sexualized [page 32] than Fi was in Liam’s redo, highlighting cultural norms around the objectification of gendered bodies both within the Black Mirror universe and the reality in which it was filmed. Both the characters and the camera emphasize the erotic nature of the female body while censoring that of the male.

The ways in which the men of the series use the grain’s memory retention features to commit voyeuristic acts suggest the ways in which they view women in real time—as objects that they might manipulate at will. And this sense of control extends beyond their physical bodies. The act of memory-sharing via the grain also reveals the power dynamics at play between differently gendered characters. Fi’s memory of Jonas, described above, is not so much shared as coerced. When Liam confronts Fi about her relationship with Jonas, beginning to question the paternity of their child, he demands to be shown her memories. When she resists, he yells, grabs her, and throws her onto the bed. Fi has little choice when it comes to what memories to share or not share with Liam. Although she initiates the redo of the memory, it’s far from a consensual act. After Liam yells “Show it to me!” three times at increasing volumes, she yells “No!” back twice, equally as loudly. It’s only after he becomes physically violent that she freezes momentarily on the bed where he’s tossed her and then slowly reaches for her grain’s remote to replay the memory. Her discomfort continues to be made visible as she refuses to watch the memory herself, now kneeling forward on the bed with her head down—her hair creating a barrier between herself and the screen. In forcing Fi to share her memories, Liam abuses his wife both physically and emotionally, demonstrating the sense of entitlement that he feels within the relationship.

The grain, as an extension of the body, creates vulnerability to new forms of violence. Although there does seem to be a politics behind installation of the grain, the overwhelming majority—at least of the cast of characters shown—appear to have accepted the device as an essential part of living. Only one character, a woman named Hallam, is without the grain—and only because it was “gouged”—forcibly removed in a rape-like assault, involving both penetration and violation of the body as a weapon was inserted behind the ear to claw out the device. The wound left in its place is both physical and psychical. Now in possession of her grain, Hallam’s attacker has also gained permanent access to her [page 33] memories. It’s hard to ignore the fact that the gouging happens to a woman. In discussing the attack, Hallam explains that her grain was “Stolen to order as far as they [the police] could tell. Probably to some millionaire Chinese perv,” implying that the assault was also a form of sexual violence—its intent being to obtain pornographic material. Although the initial wound has since scarred over, Hallam will continue to be violated as the perpetrator accesses her memories without her consent. The grain allows for a new form of violation in which attackers gain access to both their victim’s body and mind. The gouging also leaves Hallam disturbingly fetishized by Jonas, who asks to see her scar and then takes license to touch it, commenting, “Yeah, that feels quite nice.” Her wound becomes a cause for attraction, or even eroticism, as the two characters end up spending the night together later on. Not having the grain makes Hallam exotic—different from the norm of grain users—and also victim to another strange form of voyeurism.

Hallam’s gouging has additional political implications. Since the assault, Hallam has “gone grainless.” After being gouged, she was without a grain for several days and realized that she “just liked it.” While there are advantages to having total recall, traumatic memories are difficult enough to avoid in organic form. Hallam appreciates not having such an accurate visual representation of the assault. However, reactions to her decision are mixed. While Jonas attempts to defend her, volunteering, “I mean it’s a big thing now, going grainless,” another partygoer, Colleen—who works in grain development—jumps in with “I believe it’s huge with hookers,” lumping Hallam into a stigmatized population. Colleen’s reduction of the grain-resistant population to sex workers attaches the political movement to a marginalized cohort. She associates going grainless with being low-class, in contrast to the upper-class group of characters depicted in the episode. Her remark also seems meant to imply that the lives of sex workers are shameful, making it no wonder that they would want to forget and suggesting that if one were to lead a different lifestyle, one might be more attached to their memories. Her flippant comment implies judgment against women who are less sexually conservative—that certain behaviors are shameful and not culturally acceptable. Going grainless comes to represent an admission of guilt or embarrassment. In fact, Colleen’s insinuations compel Hallam to defend her morality, replying half-in-jest, “Well, I mean, I’m pretty boring—one man at [page 34] a time,” associating herself with monogamy and more conservative sexual practices despite no longer having the device.

As the conversation continues, guests refer to going grainless as an “interesting” and “brave” choice, further highlighting the sense of otherness that it encapsulates. To go grainless is to go against the norm, and if it requires bravery, it must in some way place those who are grain-resistant in danger or a place of vulnerability. This proves to be true as, later in the episode, a connection is drawn between the grain and one’s believability as a witness. To not have the grain casts characters as unreliable. This is certainly Colleen’s conviction when, as the conversation begins to turn away from grain politics, she brings it back by icily spouting in the direction of Hallam, “You know, half the organic memories you have are junk. Just not trustworthy. With half the population, you can implant false memories just by asking leading questions in therapy.” Colleen talks down to Hallam, criticizing her decision and acting as though she couldn’t possibly have thought through the implications. Colleen’s preference for the digitized memories of the grain is rooted in a claim about the untrustworthy nature of organic memory—and she’s not completely wrong. Human memory has been proven to be subjective, as well as subject to change over time.3 Memories can even be altered as they are transformed into narrative.4

Hallam does not deny this fact, but rather serves to remind viewers of the advantages of forgetting. Describing the event of the gouging and how she will not get a new grain, she jokes, “But on the plus of that, I don’t remember it that clearly.” Trauma is imprinted enough even on organic memory—people are already more likely to remember negative memories than positive ones.5 Hallam does not wish her gouging to be any more visual, visceral, or memorable than necessary. In a society that places so much weight on the idea of remembering, many other characters disregard the value of forgetting in ways that could be considered ableist—ignoring how certain memories can become debilitating for trauma survivors. In fact, contemporary neuroscientific research is focused as much on memory erasure as memory retention, with investments being made to understand the ways in which memory reconsolidation—the process in which memories change each time they are retrieved—could be disrupted in order to alter the way that trauma is remembered.6 For Colleen, as a [page 35] seemingly upper-class, privileged white woman, these issues are a bit beyond her scope, even as her position in grain development would seem to create the need for her to view the product from the perspective of multiple types of consumers. The way that Colleen highlights the subjectivity of memory in order to resist the movement of “going grainless” suggests that the purpose of the grain’s design is largely to objectify memory and thereby revolutionize ideas of truth-telling. Thus, it’s not surprising that, within the Black Mirror society, the presence of the grain and one’s ability to share memories is used to determine an individual’s believability—a connection that leaves Hallam, as a gouged woman, further victimized when she witnesses another assault and is disbelieved when she calls for help.

When Liam discovers that Fi’s relationship with Jonas was longer and more intimate than she had originally claimed, he becomes consumed with jealousy. This jealousy turns into rage when he begins to continually redo his memory of Jonas bragging about masturbating to memories of past relationships. Liam cannot stand the idea of Jonas using his wife for pornography. As a result, he goes on a binge, showing up drunk at Jonas’s house to vie for both present and past ownership of Fi’s body. Pinning Jonas to the floor and holding a broken bottle to his throat, Liam threatens Jonas, yelling, “Delete it all—the lot—or I will crack your skull and gouge your fucking neck!” While Jonas is undoubtedly a character of questionable ethics, he also becomes a victim. Liam’s threat of gouging implies that he will violate both Jonas’s body and mind if he doesn’t do what he’s asked and delete his memories of Fi.

Because this Black Mirror society values what it considers concrete evidence—the visual over the verbal—although Hallam is a direct witness to Jonas’s assault, when she calls the police for help, they don’t respond. Since she does not have the grain and is unable to provide them with documentation, she is deemed an unreliable witness. When she reports that she is “witnessing a serious assault,” although viewers do not hear the police’s response, it’s clear that they have asked for access to her grain to substantiate her claim. She attempts to explain her situation—“I don’t have a grain feed to show you. I don’t have a grain. Hello? Hello? Are you there?”—but when she cannot visually corroborate her oral story, the call ends. Even as Hallam attempts to report someone else’s assault, she goes unheard. As a “gouged” woman, [page 36] Hallam becomes symbolic of raped women, reflecting the unbelievability imposed on their stories of trauma.

In Tainted Witness, Leigh Gilmore analyzes the ways in which women’s ability to bear witness is frequently called into question when giving testimony. In contrast with men, women are positioned within a place of doubt before their stories begin. She writes, “Women are often seen as unpersuasive witnesses for three related reasons: because they are women, because through testimony they seek to bear witness to inconvenient truths, and because they possess less symbolic and material capital than men as witnesses in courts of law” (18). The grain technology degrades the value of organic memory, increasing the unbelievability of women whose testimonies were already called into question. Hallam lacks the necessary “capital” to be believed. Part of this capital is material—she now lacks a grain. But barring her testimony for this reason disregards the reason why she is grainless in the first place—that she is a victim of gouging and her grain has been literally taken. Hallam is left with no tangible proof of her own assault, nor is she capable of producing evidence as to Jonas’s. Without this, both crimes go unpunished. Because the grain would appear to give an entirely “truthful” version of the past—a concrete and visual form of evidence—organic memories and language lose value. Speech acts are no longer believed unless they can be supplemented with proof in the form of footage. Women’s voices, in particular, are not believed until corroborated with physical evidence. Liam will not believe Fi when she voices her answers to his questions about her relationship with Jonas—she must provide visible evidence. Hallam is disbelieved when reporting Jonas’s assault because she does not have a grain.

However, this logic of denying claims without visual evidence is problematic. While organic memory is indeed subjective, digitized memory is also not 100% truthful. Grain memories can be tampered with. Memories can still be both edited and deleted from the device, causing them, too, to become biased. When Liam and Fi get into an argument over her relationship with Jonas, Liam retorts, “Sometimes, you’re a bitch.” When Fi whips around to redo the memory on-screen, his line is revised into, “You’re a bitch,” leading Liam to call her out for deleting a key part of that memory during redo. Even with their memories recorded, characters still manage to remember what they want. The [page 37] objectivity of even these memories is questionable. And while, on the one hand, the grain could be utilized to provide seemingly incontrovertible evidence in identifying perpetrators of crimes, just because an act wasn’t caught on camera doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen. Some people choose to go grainless, while others choose to delete memories for a variety of reasons—often to protect themselves from painful memories, as Liam does at the show’s end.

As the episode comes to a close, it fast-forwards in time. Liam lies in bed in an empty-looking house. He and Fi have broken up, and Liam scrolls through redos of positive memories involving his wife and child, which are now equally as traumatic to him as the negative ones that he dredged up to destabilize the relationship in the first place. Although the grain is advertised at the start of the episode with the tagline “Because memory is for living,” Liam is no longer fully part of the present world. While he’s certainly living in his memories, he has detached himself from reality. Throughout the episode, he exhibits many symptoms of declining mental health: the constant redos serve as nightmarish flashbacks, even if voluntary; he obsessively ruminates over perceived slights, gestures, and comments to the point that it interferes with his present reality; and as he scrolls through his memories with his eyes, they glaze over, glossy and grey. From the outside, he appears to be in a dissociated state, detached from reality and fully enveloped in his flashbacks, a master of the thousand-yard stare. For Liam, the grain serves as a form of self-destruction that he eventually literalizes by wounding his physical body.

The episode ends with Liam in the midst of self-mutilation, gouging out his grain with a razor and pair of pliers, needing to be rid of his own traumatic memories. Blood drips down his neck and the screen goes black, symbolic of both his pain and loss of memory. The technology has driven him to a state of mental illness. His final removal of the grain and deletion of rewindable memories unfolds like the greatest desire of many trauma victims: to physically excise the memory and for their wound to scar over and heal like Hallam’s. But this logic is flawed in that this will not eliminate the trauma. Even with the grain gone, organic memories cannot be so easily erased, and traumatic ones are particularly persistent.

Part of the difficulty of trauma recovery is that the process of integrating traumatic memory into one’s timeline is thwarted by the [page 38] way that trauma becomes untellable. Unlike ordinary memories, traumatic memories can be nearly impossible to narrate.7 In The Wounded Storyteller, Arthur Frank defines three main categories of narratives that attempt to describe stories of illness. The narrative form that most closely fits with experiences of trauma is what he deems the “chaos narrative,” in which a “story traces the edges of a wound that can only be told around” and “words necessarily fail” (98). Trauma, folded into the category of chaos, is imagined as a wound that cannot be healed through narrative because of its resistance towards language. Similarly, Cathy Caruth explains how listening to a traumatic story requires learning “how to listen to departure,” suggesting the unspeakable nature of trauma, which is shaped not by narrative, but silence (10). According to these scholars, trauma renders individuals either too disoriented or too mute to verbalize their story. The memory-sharing capabilities of the grain technology thus represent an opportunity for healing by providing a new mode of telling trauma. By visually recording memory, the grain eliminates the need to translate trauma into narrative, allowing characters to simply replay the event on-screen.8

However, none of the episode’s traumatized characters are able to utilize the technology in this manner. Hallam is literally stripped of the ability, while Liam chooses self-mutilation over memory-sharing. There’s also no evidence that Jonas sought justice after his own assault by Liam, possibly underscoring other ways in which trauma becomes gendered, with men even less likely to report incidents of abuse. Opposite to, or perhaps intertwining with, the idea of trauma being untellable is that maybe trauma can be told, but others are just unwilling to hear it. In reference to “chaos” narratives, Arthur Frank writes, “One of our most difficult duties as human beings is to listen to the voices of those who suffer” (25), and “[c]haos stories are also hard to hear because they are too threatening. The anxiety these stories provoke inhibits hearing” (97-8). Chaos stories can be perceived as threats to the listeners’ selves, causing them, too, to feel disoriented, and forcing them to imagine how they themselves are vulnerable to tragedy. Trauma becomes treated as contagion. This is a problem not so easily solved by the grain technology.

Given the difficulty of being a good listener—the difficulty of “bearing witness”—is it too pessimistic to presume that some memories pulled from the grain might be too hard to watch? Just [page 39] as many people tune out the verbal or written stories of sufferers, they can perhaps even more easily deny visible, visual evidence simply by closing their eyes, just as viewers can turn off Black Mirror. And just as many trauma survivors might find it difficult to put their stories into words, how many would be able to replay such a memory for someone else—literally showing their most vulnerable and traumatic moments on-screen—even if they could look away themselves? Could they even keep that memory long enough to share it? Replaying suggests reliving. And like the impulse of many assault victims to shower and wash away physical evidence, deletion of such a visceral memory seems like it would be equally desirable and difficult not to do in an attempt to cleanse one’s self of traumatic experience. The grain perpetuates the difficulty of telling trauma because it would force people to even more viscerally relive it in order to tell. This suggests, as other psychologists have surmised, that trauma isn’t so much untellable as it is that people are just often unready to share.9 Having access to a memory does not necessarily make it accessible.

“The Entire History of You” emphasizes the gendered power dynamics present even in this futuristic society, and how technological advancements may create new ways to rigidify those hierarchies. Although the grain’s memory-sharing capabilities could be used to build intimacy, they more often facilitate acts of voyeurism and abuse. As an extension of the body, the grain comes to represent one more way in which it can now be violated. These negative effects fall particularly heavily on women in the episode, who become both eroticized objects and unreliable witnesses. While the grain could serve as a new mode of telling trauma—as well as a way to mitigate crime to begin with—it more often perpetuates the problem, in addition to becoming its own source of violence. Some memories remain difficult to share. And the privileging of digitized memories, coupled with the value placed on maintaining complete timelines, ignores the advantages, or even necessity, of forgetting.


1. See Donna Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto.”

2. According to Sue Campbell in “The Second Voice,” “Sharing memory is how we learn to remember, how we come to reconceive our pasts in memory, how we come to form a sense of self, and [page 40] one of the primary ways in which we come to know others and form relationships with them, reforming our sense of self as we come repeatedly under the influence not only of our own pasts as understood by others but of the pasts of others” (42).

3. In The Shaking Woman, Siri Hustvedt explains, “Neuroscientists now know that when we retrieve a memory, we find not the original memory but, rather, the one we summoned to consciousness the last time we remembered it. In this process, memories mutate” (108).

4. According to Hustvedt, “Language abstracts visual memory and, in time, often replaces it by creating a fixed narrative that can be repeated again and again” (102).

5. In “Trauma and Memory” (1998), Bessel van der Kolk discusses the persistence of traumatic memory. Affect-laden memories tend to remain comparatively stable and accurate over time.

6. In “Memory Reconsolidation” (2013), Cristina Alberini and Joseph LeDoux explain the process of memory reconsolidation and suggest its implications for clinical practice, particularly in cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

7. Bessel van der Kolk and Rita Fisler find in their article “Dissociation and the Fragmentary Nature of Traumatic memories: Overview and Exploratory Study” that trauma survivors were unable to narrate their traumas when they originally occurred.

8. In Trauma and Recovery, Judith Herman writes, “Traumatic memories lack verbal narrative and context; rather, they are encoded in the form of vivid sensations and images” (38). As a database of images, the grain allows trauma to be tellable in its original form.

9. In “Speak, Trauma: Toward a Revised Understanding of Literary Trauma Theory,” Joshua Pederson works against the claims of Caruth, Herman, and van der Kolk about trauma’s unspeakability by citing Richard McNally. McNally claims in Remembering Trauma that it may not be that trauma victims cannot narrate their trauma, but that they choose not to.

Works Cited

Alberini, Cristina, and Joseph LeDoux. “Memory Reconsolidation.” Current Biology, vol. 23, no. 17, 2013. Accessed 4 March 2018.

Campbell, Sue. “The Second Voice.” Memory Studies, vol. 1, no. 1, [page 41] 2008, pp. 41–48.

Caruth, Cathy. “Trauma and Experience: Introduction.” Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Johns Hopkins UP, 1995.

Frank, Arthur. The Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, and Ethics. The U of Chicago P, 1995.

Gilmore, Leigh. Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives. Columbia UP, 2017.

Haraway, Donna. “A Cyborg Manifesto.” The Cybercultures Reader, edited by David Bell and Barbara Kennedy. Routledge, 2000, pp. 291-324.

Herman, Judith Lewis. Trauma and Recovery. Basic Books, 1992.

Hustvedt, Siri. The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. Picador, 2010.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Screen, vol. 16, no. 3, 1975, pp. 6-18.

Pederson, Joshua. “Speak, Trauma: Toward a Revised Understanding of Literary Trauma Theory.” Narrative, vol. 22, no. 3, 2014, pp. 333–353.

“The Entire History of You.” Black Mirror, written by Jesse Armstrong, directed by Brian Welsh, season 1, episode 3, 2011, Netflix.

Van der Kolk, Bessel. “Trauma and Memory.” Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, vol. 52, 1998. Wiley Online Library, Accessed 4 March 2018.

Van der Kolk, Bessel and Rita Fisler. “Dissociation and the Fragmentary Nature of Traumatic Memories: Overview and Exploratory Study.” Journal of Traumatic Stress, vol. 8, no. 4, 1995. Accessed 4 March 2018.

MLA citation (print):

Hildebrand, Sarah. "Grain Ethics: Voyeurism, Violence, and Traumatic Memory in Black Mirror’s 'The Entire History of You.'” Supernatural Studies, vol. 4, no. 2, 2018, pp. 27-41.