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No way back: war trauma in Richard Aldington and Virginia Woolf

Bolchi, E. (2019) No way back: war trauma in Richard Aldington and Virginia Woolf. In: Riede, A. (ed.) Transatlantic Shell Shock. British and American Literatures of World War I Trauma. University of North Georgia Press, Dahlonega, pp. 208-231. ISBN 9781940771656

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Abstract/Summary

After fighting as a soldier in World War One, the poet, writer and co-founder of imagism Richard Aldington was so shattered that he had to wait ten years before he was able to write about his experience at the front. His 1929 novel Death of a Hero, praised by George Orwell as “much the best of the English war books”, tells the story of a young, talkative painter, George Winterbourne, who undergoes a deep change after joining the army and experiencing the horror of war. While home on leave after several months in the trenches, George is amazed to find himself unable to communicate and interact with people, feeling “remote” from everyone and no longer belonging to his “old life”. Focusing on this sense of remoteness and marginalization, This chapter analyses how George Winterbourne is connected to – if not inspired by – Septimus Warren Smith, a character from Mrs Dalloway who is the archetypal shell-shocked veteran. By means of a comparison between George Winterbourne and Septimus Smith, this study examines how Aldington and Woolf depict the impossibility of restoring routine and recovering from the “debilitating emotions” (DeMeester) of war trauma. Back home, both George and Septimus are misunderstood by the people around them, find interaction impossible, annoy their women. In short, they are no longer the men they used to be and become the means “to criticise the social system, & show it at work” (Woolf, Diary).

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > Modern Languages and European Studies > Italian
Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:88753
Uncontrolled Keywords:Richard Aldington, Virginia Woolf, Trauma, PTSD, Shell Shock, War
Publisher:University of North Georgia Press

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