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Fantastic Fears Incarnate: Literary Memory and the Spectres of the Great War

Christopoulou, Z; (2015) Fantastic Fears Incarnate: Literary Memory and the Spectres of the Great War. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis examines six fictional prose narratives of World War I, written by soldier-authors from different nations, fighting on different fronts and different sides. Hitherto, the study of WWI literature has tended to focus largely on its verisimilitude, or its truthfulness to the historical record. There is something of a gap in scholarship regarding the full sweep of its literariness, namely the literary tools and devices the soldier-authors have used in order to construct imaginatively powerful accounts of the events they experienced first-hand. Most of the criticism that does engage with issues of literariness deals either with its ‘realism’ or its ‘modernism’ but fails to address the significance of its mobilisation of other literary genres. Although there are mentions in several critical works of the indebtedness of WWI literature to the mythical, the apocalyptic, the atavistic and the Gothic, these remain scattered and untheorised. In fact, those elements had been organised and conventionalised by the fantastic, a literary genre that developed throughout the nineteenth century in parallel with dominant realism. The thesis looks at major tropes of the fantastic genre and explores their use by the soldier-authors of WWI. The argument of this thesis is that the experience of this war was so terrible, and so unlike any other that it induced writers to have recourse to techniques and tropes hitherto limited to evocations of experiences on the borderline between the real and the supernatural. In order to trace the use of fantastic tropes in these works I look at the three major elements of the novel: space, time and character. Having analysed the way these are handled by my authors, I conclude that the use of fantastic tropes breaking into a predominantly realist narration, convey in words what the soldier-authors experienced for themselves: the abrupt cracking apart of ‘civilisation’ and the emergence of barbarism.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Fantastic Fears Incarnate: Literary Memory and the Spectres of the Great War
Event: UCL (University College London)
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1473097
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