Martha Gellhorn : the war writer in the field and in the text
How war is depicted matters vitally to all of us. In the vast literature on war representation, little attention is paid to the fact that where the war recorder1stands crucially affects the portrayal. Should the writer be present on the battle-field, and, if so, where exactly? Should the recording figure be present in the text, and, if so, in what guise? 'Standing' differs from person to person, conflict to conflict, and between genders. Therefore, this thesis focuses on one particular war recorder in one particular war: the American journalist and fiction-writer, Martha Gellhorn (1908-98), in the European Theatre of Operations during World War Two. The fact that Gellhorn was a woman affected how she could and did place herself in relation to battle - but gender, though important, was not the only factor. Her course in and around war was dazzling: hitching rides, stowing away, travelling on dynamite-laden ships through mined waters, flying in ancient planes and deadly fighter jets, driving from battle-field to battle-field, mucking in, standing out. Her trajectory within her prose is equally versatile: she zooms in and out like a camera lens from impassiveness to intense involvement to withdrawal. The thesis is organised along the same spectrum. The first two chapters plot the co- ordinates forming the zero point on the graph of Gellhorn's Second World War writings (earlier American war correspondence, the 1930s' New Reportage, Gellhorn's upbringing and journalistic apprenticeship). Chapter Three then shows her in the guise of self-effacing, emotionally absent recorder. Moving from absence to presence, Chapter Four considers Martha Gellhorn in the field and Chapter Five 'Martha Gellhorn' in the text. Chapter Six describes the shift from presence to participation, before reaching the end of the parabola in Gellhorn's disillusionment in the power of writing to reform and her concerns about women's presence in the war zone. Given that positioning is the central concern, it is important to note the placement of Martha Gellhorn within the thesis itself. She stands as the central, pivotal example of the war recorder, illuminated by various contexts and comparisons with other writers (notably Ernest Hemingway, to whom she was married from 1940 to 1945). As a result of this approach, there are necessarily stretches of the text from which she is absent, as the survey turns to theoretical and comparative discussion. The hope is that this methodology reveals why Gellhorn, in the field and in the text, went where she did.