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Title: 'Just a heap of rubble' : trauma and home loss in British women's personal correspondence during the Second World War
Author: Butler, Stephanie Elaine
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 9455
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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This thesis investigates letters exchanged by British women in the U.K. with women in the U.K. and North America, conveying their fears of home loss during the Second World War. Margaretta Jolly (1995) and Jenny Hartley (1999) examine British women’s correspondence during the war, but their work is not concerned with trauma, whilst I focus on trauma. Angus Calder (1992) and Carol Acton (2007) identify the omission of trauma from popular and scholarly representations of the U.K. during the Second World War. I address this lacuna by referencing unpublished letters and illuminating women’s use of letter-writing as peer support. Focusing on women’s negative feelings in response to home loss, I draw on research about war, gender and national identity (Braybon, 2012; Gubar, 1987; Higonnet et al, 1987; Noakes, 1998; Summerfield, 1989, 2012). I centralise dangers many women experienced at home, building on research about British wartime housing (Langhamer, 2005), British cultural attitudes towards homes (Light, 1991), and narrative psychiatry (Wilson and Lindy, 2013) in asserting that women’s references to houses are metaphors for their psychological wellbeing. I investigate letters by Virginia Woolf, Vera Brittain, Ada and Rhoda McGuire, Florence Hyatt, and women’s letters in Beatrice Curtis Brown and Jan Struther’s collection, Women of Brittain: Letters from England (1941), alongside previously unexplored letters by Emily Morgan, Mary Bloxham, and anonymised women who corresponded with Brittain. Chapter One analyzes strategies women developed to cope with anxieties about air-raid-induced dangers. Chapter Two examines how epistolary peer support promoted resilience amongst women who experienced threatened and actual home loss. Chapter Three considers epistolary peer support in contexts where women expressed suicidal ideation following home loss. My project provides a corrective to minimisations of trauma in depictions of British women during the Second World War and offers insight into letter-writing as peer support.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available