RENDERING THE FIRST WORLD WAR: NARRATOLOGY, MODERNISM, AND [RE]VISIONS OF EXPERIENCE
Solomon, Samantha Lauren
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation analyzes narratives that render the experience of war in ways other than the realist representations that dominate the literary history of the First World War. While narratives that focus on the soldier in battle have been traditionally valued for their implied direct access to the experience of war, I argue that all war narratives are mediated representations of experience, and therefore, no genre or form can communicate war more authentically than another. Using the theoretical frame of cognitive narratology, which primarily studies the ways that readers interact with texts, I analyze the various ways in which war narratives immerse the reader in experiences of war that are spatiotemporally distributed, that decenter the individual human perspective, and that subvert our expectations for the ways in which war ought to be represented. Chapter One challenges the assumption that war can be directly accessed through any mode of representation, even visiting a battlefield. Chapter Two examines how modernist representations of war, such as David Jones’ epic poem In Parenthesis, blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction to communicate war as a spatiotemporally-distributed experience. Chapter Three analyzes how Edith Wharton’s Fighting France and Virginia Woolf’s “Time Passes” evoke empathy for nonhuman elements of war through descriptions of empty spaces and ruined architecture. Chapter Four argues that frontline nursing narratives represent the liminal spaces of war through their narrators’ dual positionality in the frontline and the homefront. Finally, Chapter Five analyzes how visual war narratives, like composite photography and humorous cartoons, construct the experience of war in ways that subvert our expectations for what mediums best represent war. I argue that each of these narratives use considered rhetorical strategies for rendering the war experience to the audience in specific, evocative ways. Therefore, the reader’s experience of the text, and the strategies that invite that experience, are more important evaluative markers for what constitutes a war narrative than the degree to which they adhere to aesthetic or realistic modes of representation. This dissertation seeks not just to revise our understanding of First World War narratives, but to revise our expectations of war narratives altogether.