The First World War was the first ‘total war’. Its industrial weaponry damaged millions of men, and drove whole armies underground into dangerously unhealthy trenches. Many were killed. Others suffered from massive, life-threatening injuries; wound infections such as gas gangrene and tetanus; exposure to extremes of temperature; emotional trauma; and systemic disease. Tens of thousands of women volunteered to serve as nurses to alleviate their suffering. Some were fully-trained professionals; others had minimal preparation, and served as volunteer-nurses. Their motivations were a combination of compassion, patriotism, professional pride and a desire for engagement in the ‘great enterprise’ of war. The war led to an outpouring of war-memoirs, produced mostly by soldier-writers whose works came to be seen as a ‘literary canon’ of war-writing. But nurses had offered immediate and long-term care, life-saving expertise, and comfort to the war’s wounded, and their experiences had given them a perspective on industrial warfare which was unique. Until recently, their contributions, both to the saving of lives and to our understanding of warfare have remained largely hidden from view. ‘Nurse Writers of the Great War’ examines these nurses’ memoirs and explores the insights they offer into the nature of nursing and the impact of warfare. The book combines close biographical research with textual analysis, in order to offer an understanding of both nurses’ wartime experiences and the ways in which their lives and backgrounds contributed to the style and content of their writing.
This essay examines a particular kind of female Gothic. Seizing the moment at which features of Gothic form had become sufficiently established to become part of a cultural inheritance, some twentieth-century women writers, we argue, created comic Gothic fictions that extended the boundaries of potential feminine identity. Stella Gibbon‘s Cold Comfort Farm pits an Austen sensibility against a rural Radcliffean scenario and proceeds to parody both as literary ancestors of a contemporary narrative of femininity. Fay Weldon‘s The Life and Loves of a She-Devil (1983) also appropriates aspects of Gothic to spin a darkly comic tale of literary and literally constructed ‘woman’. The essay also looks at the Canadian novel published a year earlier, Lady Oracle by Margaret Atwood, which engages playfully with the relationship between Gothic writing and the feminine. Such texts constitute a challenge to the grand récit of gender difference, a challenge that has yet to be recognized fully by feminist critics many of whom have concentrated their energies on the feminist pursuit of life-writing. Female writers of comic Gothic, however, confront the stuff of patriarchy‘s nightmares and transform it into fictions of wry scepticism or celebratory anarchy. Through parody as ‘repetition with critical difference’, the boundaries of gender difference are destabilized in the service of creating different possibilities for female subjectivity. In their resistance both to tragic closure and their recasting of the fears of patriarchal society from a feminine perspective, such texts transform a literature of terror into a literature of liberation.
about the slave trade, Kantian philosophy and its juridical appeal truly offer a terrifying vision for humanity complete. Kant proposes a harmonious regulation of the faculties of reason. He imagines a world free from conflict, frictionless in its thoughts, autonomous in its rationality, committed in its pursuit of happiness. And yet not only does this require the eradication of all resistance, Kant, still needed to account for those who didn’t wish to conform to his universal doctrine. It is therefore no coincidence that he ended his lifewriting about the concept of
A microhistory of a never-married English gentlewoman named Elizabeth Isham, this book centres on an extremely rare piece of women’s writing – a relatively newly discovered 60,000-word spiritual autobiography held in Princeton’s manuscript collections that she penned circa 1639. The document is among the richest extant sources related to early modern women, and offers a wealth of information not only on Elizabeth’s life but also on the seventeenth-century Ishams. Indeed, it is unmatched in providing an inside view of her family relations, her religious beliefs, her reading habits, and, most sensationally, the reasons why she chose never to marry despite desires to the contrary held by her male kin, particularly Sir John Isham, her father. Based on the autobiography, combined with extensive research of the Isham family papers now housed at the county record office in Northampton, the book recreates Elizabeth’s world, placing her in the larger community of Northamptonshire and then reconstructing her family life and the patriarchal authority that she lived under at her home of Lamport Hall. Restoring our historical memory of Elizabeth and her female relations, this reconstruction demonstrates why she wrote her autobiography and the influence that family and religion had on her unmarried state, reading, and confessional identity, expanding our understanding and knowledge about patriarchy, piety, and singlehood in early modern England.
This book explores the experiences and contributions of British women performing various kinds of active service across the Eastern Front in Serbia, Russia and Romania during the First World War. The book is roughly chronological, but also examines related themes such as gender, nationality and legacy. Upon the outbreak of the War in 1914, rejected by the British military, surprising numbers of British women went to work for the allied armies in the East. The book considers their experiences before and after the fall of Serbia in 1915. Other women were caught in Russia and remained there to offer service. Later, women’s Units moved further East from Serbia to work on the Romanian and Russian Fronts, only to be caught up in revolution. This book explores their many experiences and achievements, within an appropriate historical and cultural context and interprets their own words by examining the many and varied written records they left behind. Women such as Dr Elsie Inglis, Mabel St Clair Stobart, Flora Sandes and Florence Farmborough are studied alongside many others whose diaries, letters, memoirs and journalism help to shape the extraordinary role played by British women in the East and their subsequent legacy.
Working in a World of Hurt uncovers and analyses the range of responses to psychological trauma by male and female medical personnel in wartime in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Until now, academic and popular studies have focused on the trauma experienced by soldiers and civilians, saying very little about the mental strain endured by their healers. Acton & Potter seek to understand the subjective experiences of British, American and Canadian doctors, nurses, and other medical workers by studying personal accounts contained in letters, diaries and memoirs, both published and unpublished, and in weblogs. Offering an interdisciplinary understanding across a large chronological sweep of both the medical experience and the literary history of war, Working a World of Hurt demonstrates that while these narratives are testaments to the suffering of combatants, they also bear witness to the trauma of the healers themselves whose responses range from psychological and physical breakdown to stoical resilience and pride in their efforts to assuage the wounds of war.
The Korean War in Britain explores the social and cultural impact of the Korean War (1950–53) on Britain. Coming just five years after the ravages of the Second World War, Korea was a deeply unsettling moment in post-war British history. When North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950, Britons worried about a return to total war and the prospect of atomic warfare. As the war progressed, British people grew uneasy about the conduct of the war. From American ‘germ’ warfare allegations to anxiety over Communist use of ‘brainwashing’, the Korean War precipitated a series of short-lived panics in 1950s Britain. But by the time of its uneasy ceasefire in 1953, the war was becoming increasingly forgotten, with more attention paid to England’s cricket victory at the Ashes than to returning troops. Using Mass Observation surveys, letters, diaries and a wide range of under-explored contemporary material, this book charts the war’s changing position in British popular imagination, from initial anxiety in the summer of 1950 through to growing apathy by the end of the war and into the late-twentieth century. Built around three central concepts – citizenship, selfhood and forgetting – The Korean War in Britain connects a critical moment in Cold War history to post-war Britain, calling for a more integrated approach to Britain’s Cold War past. It explores the war a variety of viewpoints – conscript, POW, protestor and veteran – to offer the first social history of this ‘forgotten war’. It is essential reading for anyone interested in Britain’s post-1945 history.
gender, likability, power, repetition and identity. They remind us that
the stories we write and repeat about real people from history, or what
I will refer to as lifewriting, have profound cultural resonance. These
stories matter now, as in the nineteenth century, for the values they
represent and the identities they validate, for their ability to uphold or
Romantic women’s lifewriting
explode stereotypes. They matter not only for the changes they effect
in the public status of their individual subjects but also for their power
to shape the models and
Virginia Woolf’s Common Reader essays and the legacy of women’s life writing
Coda: Virginia Woolf’s Common
Reader essays and the legacy of
lthoug h Virgin ia Wool f oc c u pies a longstanding
and uncontested place in the canon of British novelists, her
reception as a writer of non-fiction has been more precarious.
Like Mary Wollstonecraft and countless other women of the long
nineteenth century who cut their writing teeth on the anonymous
pages of the periodical press, Woolf the essayist, both in her lifetime
and afterwards, underwent periods of obscurity, fame and critical
neglect.1 Recent interest in her non
What can I say?: secrets in fiction
Hermione Lee interviews Alan Hollinghurst
This conversation between Hermione Lee and Alan Hollinghurst took
place on 8 February 2012 at the Oxford Centre for Life-Writing at Wolfson
College, Oxford. It was part of the Weinrebe Lectures, an annual lecture
series at the Life-Writing Centre. Since the year’s theme was the connections
between fiction and auto/biography, a conversation between a novelist and
a biographer seemed an appropriate format.
Hermione Lee: Alan Hollinghurst is one of our most daring