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Title: Military fictions : stories about soldiers, 1914-1930
Author: Simmers, George
ISNI:       0000 0004 2688 5572
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2009
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Much criticism of the fiction of the Great War has relied on certain assumptions: that Britain's involvement in the War was futile, and that good writing about it must necessarily be ironic; that only fighting soldiers knew War's truth, while civilians were kept ignorant by censorship and propaganda; and that the disillusioned fiction of the late twenties belatedly revealed the 'truth about the War. This thesis asks what the literature looks like if these propositions are not taken for granted. It finds in wartime Britain a 'culture of consent' regulated more by public opinion than by official interference, and argues that reticence need not imply ignorance. The dominant representation of the soldier, as controlled and responsible, did not necessarily lead to endorsement of unthinking patriotism, but is found in texts whose aim is to regulate war enthusiasm. Some unorthodox accounts of soldiers were written and published during wartime; some of the institutions of the literary world hampered writers' expression more than official censorship. During the twenties, representations of War and soldiers were often determined by the time's anxieties, and by a need to understand the War's place in history; the conflict was rarely shown as futile, even in fiction tackling the difficult subject of military executions. Stories about ex-soldiers sometimes presented them as victims, sometimes as a disturbing presence in post-war society. Other ex-soldiers were seen as the answer to society's problems in the years before the General Strike. The war books published at the end of the twenties are more varied than has often been suggested, though many contemporary readers wanted them all to preach a message of wars futility. These and later fictions tell us as much about the times in which they are written as about the War itself. There is more to Great War fiction than, for example, the narrow selection found on current educational syllabuses.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral