The experience of war: British war novels, 1919-1930.

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Shelton, Carole
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Middle Tennessee State University
The war novels written by British citizen-soldiers in the decade following the Great War offer unique opportunities for historians to trace how individuals structured their personal memories of the war experience and how their accounts affected public opinion. Their fictional accounts, however, have generally been dismissed as antiwar propaganda. No study has traced the relationship between the author's personal experiences and his fictionalized portrayal of the war or the impact on public consciousness.
This study focuses chronologically on the major war novels as expressions of the individual war experience, examines their impact on the public's perception of the war, and investigates the integration of the war novel into an instructional module. The following information is included for each novel: biographical information, especially concerning the author's war experience; analysis of the novel as an expression of individual experience; examination of individual themes and images; and measurement of public response through book reviews. Instructional usages are developed based on the above analysis.
The war novels are highly autobiographical reflections of the war's impact on the middle-class citizen-soldier. Fictionalized memoirs, they are realistic, rather than antiwar, expressions of the impact of the war on the individual. Reflecting the daily life of the soldier, both at the front and behind the lines, the novels reveal the routine, the horrors, the comradeship, and the relaxations of the front-line soldier. The novelists, most of whom suffered from shell-shock, treat the immense psychological stress of trench warfare on the individual soldier. Public willingness to consider the novelists' view of war is indicated by favorable reviews and sales figures. Because they are literary documents based on personal experience, their inclusion as source materials in the classroom provides insight into the war and its impact on the individual.
Major Professor: Jerry Brookshire.