Literature and War

Five members of the School of English have research interests in the representation of war across genres. In recent years, groundbreaking work has been conducted on the literary culture of the Second World War, the connections between life-writing, trauma theory and women’s responses to war, soldierly masculinity in the Crimean war and on literary and visual representations of the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Current research projects

  • The representation of the Second World War in post-war British writing
  • What popular depictions of female SOE agents can tell us about how the war was understood in British culture in the 1950s
  • Attitudes to Second World War and Vietnam war veterans in American psychiatric discourse
  • Masculinity and emotion in the Crimean War
  • The afterlives of Victorian conflicts
  • War, aesthetics and the history of emotions in the long eighteenth century

Staff research interests

Dr Holly Furneaux

Dr Holly Furneaux is working on an AHRC funded project 'Military Men of Feeling: Masculinity, Emotion and Tactility in the Crimean  War'., The research considers  overlooked aspects of soldiers' felt experience, such as family feeling in regiments, soldier adoptions, the production of trench art, and battlefield nursing. Recognising a widespread cultural emphasis on the gentle soldier, this project challenges persistent ideas about Victorian masculinity as well as enhancing our understanding of the complexities of battlefield feeling.

Professor Martin Halliwell

Professor Martin Halliwell recently published Therapeutic Revolutions: Medicine, Psychiatry and American Culture, 1945-1970 (Rutgers University Press, 2013), and is currently working on a follow-up volume, Voices of Health and Illness: Medicine, Psychiatry, and American Culture, 1970-2000. The impact of the Second World War and the Vietnam War on perceptions of mental health is a central aspect of these works.

Dr Mark Rawlinson

Dr Mark Rawlinson has published extensively on the fiction and poetry of the First and Second World Wars. His British Writing of the Second World War (Oxford University Press, 2000) was a study of the literary culture of wartime Britain (1939-1945), and that investigation is currently being extended to how the meanings of the Second World War have been reassessed in fiction and film since 1945.

Professor Philip Shaw

Professor Philip Shaw’s research focuses on representations of war in British culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. He is the author of an inter-disciplinary study, Suffering and Sentiment in Romantic Military Art (Ashgate, 2013), which examines depictions of the effects of war on men, women and children in paintings, sketches, poetry and prose in the long eighteenth century. This book engages with themes emerging from his earlier study, Waterloo and the Romantic Imagination (Palgrave, 2002)

Dr Victoria Stewart

Dr Victoria Stewart has researched the representation of the First and Second World Wars and the Holocaust in fiction and life-writing. Her book Women’s Autobiography: War and Trauma (Palgrave, 2003) considered the work of writers including Vera Brittain, Virginia Woolf and Anne Frank from the perspective of trauma theory. Narratives of Memory: British Writing of the 1940s (Palgrave, 2006) examined a range of novels and short fiction focusing in particular on their depiction of the processes of memory. More recently, The Second World War in Contemporary British Fiction: Secret Histories (Edinburgh University Press, 2011), considered the use of secrecy as both a trope and a narrative device in recent fictional treatments of the war.

Resources at Leicester

The School has links with War-net, an interdisciplinary network for scholars working on the representation of war and will be hosting one of a series of conferences to mark the anniversary years of the First World War.  This event, on the years 1915 and 1815 will take place on 21 November 2015.

Recent postgraduate projects

Rachel Anchor, ‘Curating the Crimea: The Cultural Afterlife of a Conflict’. AHRC funded Collaborative Doctoral Award in Partnership with the National Army Museum

Irina Kyulanova ‘Growing up through war: Rites of Passage in Contemporary Young Adult Novels and Memoirs’ (PhD awarded 2013)

Angela Thurstance, ‘Looking Beyond the Trenches: The First World War Home Front in Contemporary Fiction’

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