Looking beyond the trenches: the First World War home front in contemporary fiction
thesisposted on 29.04.2016, 12:25 by Angela Joan Thurstance
This thesis explores how contemporary fiction provides new perspectives on the First World War by engaging with narratives which unfold on the Home Front and considering the ways in which they contribute to debates on the representation of conflict and trauma. In this study I will show how contemporary conflict and its impact on society are negotiated through interpretations and re-imaginings of the First World War since, despite their historical settings, these novels are underscored by contemporary preoccupations and reflect current issues and concerns. I will show how contemporary authors engage in debates about the role of literature in representing war. Across the literary spectrum, from the popular to the more literary, they use intertextuality and different genres to build on earlier literature to insert themselves into ongoing dialogues about the war. Through an appreciation of their position within a wider literary tradition they consider the power of literature, and more broadly that of language and the written word, to influence and inform and thus self-reflexively critique their own role in attempting to convey historical events and their protagonists’ experiences of them By turning to the Home Front, the thirteen novels included in this study draw on aspects of the war not usually foregrounded in its earlier representations. They show the impact of the First World War on those previously considered more peripheral or outside the main war effort, such as family members and conscientious objectors. In doing so they show how the experiences of contemporary society facilitate a re-evaluation of how war is remembered and represented. I will show how contemporary authors scrutinize the ways in which conflict can, and cannot, be adequately represented and thus challenge the possibility for any one version of history, or form of representation, to effectively convey the experience of war.