Human Traces

First edition (publ. Hutchinson)

Human Traces is a 2005 novel by Sebastian Faulks, best known as the British author of Birdsong and Charlotte Gray. The novel took Faulks five years to write. It tells of two friends who set up a pioneering asylum in 19th-century Austria, in tandem with the evolution of psychiatry and the start of the First World War.

Plot overview

Tracing the intertwined lives of Doctors Thomas Midwinter, who is English, and Jacques Rebière, from Brittany, France, Human Traces explores the development of psychiatry and psychoanalysis in the late 19th century, by way of excursions into first alienism then metaphysics, human evolution and neuroscience, before the search for what it means to be human takes us into a brief foray into the First World War. Central to the plot is the theory of bicameralism.

Whilst some have criticised Human Traces as excessively expository, detailed and didactic, it has also been considered wide ranging, ambitious and well written. It has enjoyed commercial success, having been a bestseller in the United Kingdom.

Faulks himself says of his novel:

'Human Traces was a Sisyphean task. After spending five years in libraries reading up on madness, psychiatry and psychoanalysis (my office had charts and timelines and things plastered all over the walls), the act of finishing it felt like a bereavement.[1]


Human Trace

Human trace (Human-trace, Homme-Trace) is title of scientifics works written by Beatrice Galinon Mélénec

In this works, B. Galinon-Mélénec explains that confusing the sign and the trace is an anthropocentric view and that "if any sign is, in fact, a "signe-trace", a trace is not necessarily a sign".

The latest scientific discoveries have led the author to propose a new anthropological definition spanning time: the Homme-Trace (Human-trace). Having observed that the notion of trace is used in disciplines whose subjects and methods often stand far apart, Béatrice Galinon-Mélénec has put forward some definitions from anthroposemiotic research (signe-trace, signe-signal, "echoing of traces" etc.). The propositions result from her own findings in professional situations of communication.

E-laboratory on « Human Trace »

The first part of the twenty-first century has been marked by the exacerbation of issues related to the proliferation of traces associated to human activities (sustainable development, digital traces, health risk, protection of personal data and identity, cybercrime, etc.). The e-laboratory on Human Trace (founded by Galinon-Mélénec) bring together researchers who respond to these societal issues.[2]

The question of the trace as an object of research in the context of complex systems comes so naturally in term of multidisciplinarity. To articulate - without merging - all these approaches, it is proposed to gradually build an innovative form of network of research networks around the object « Trace », taking advantage of the framework established by CS-DC UNESCO UniTwin. The scientific objective is to show how the issue of the trace and its interpretation refers to complex processes. In the focus of CS-DC UNESCO UniTwin, this scientific objective leads to a strengthening of prevention multiscale risks and contributes to the development of cooperation among the various regions of the world. Consideration of inter-cultural and inter consistent discipline is likely to support research from long time and from the individual and social protection of the human species.


  1. The Australian, Books, 28 April 2007 'Parting with the art of war
  2. wikiversity:en:Portal:Complex Systems Digital Campus/E-Laboratory on human trace


External links

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