What topic are you working on for your masters degree or doctorate?
I am currently a PhD candidate in English Literature at Washington State University and my research interests include British Modernism, First World War Literature, and theories of narrative. My dissertation research focuses on non-normative representations of the First World War in Modernist literature, and even more specifically on alternative spatiotemporalities of war. My project argues that while literary representations of the war have traditionally (and rightfully) privileged the first-person soldier-on-the-battlefield perspective, war itself is a distributed process that literature represents through various spaces and voices. My dissertation focuses on everything from women’s nursing memoirs to nonhuman representations of war by analyzing the ways that the war’s effects are projected onto the landscape. My goal is to expand our perspective on the way that literature represented the First World War by analyzing how long-lasting and wide-reaching psychological, social, ecological, and economic effects of the war registered in narrative form.
Why did you decide to work on the First World War?
When I was an undergraduate at Rutgers University in New Jersey, I took a class called “Literature of Violence” that exposed me for the first time to First World War literature. We read Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum Est,” some of Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry, and Pat Barker’s Regeneration, all which I loved. I was personally invested in these texts for two reasons: initially, it was because my great-grandfather fought in World War I, and I was interested to learn more about it. But the reason why I continued to study it from that point forward was because my now husband (at that time, he was my boyfriend) is an Iraq War veteran, and studying the literature of war gave me a new perspective on war, and a more unobstructed view into the mind of the soldier. There is something about the First World War specifically that I think registers with me as the wife of a veteran and as an American who has lived her whole life surrounded by images of war in the news and on television. The Great War was a war that impacted everybody in different ways, whether directly involved or not, so the way the collective trauma of war is represented in art, architecture, and literature of the First World War is something that I understand, and is something that continues to motivate me in my research to expand the types of narratives that people in today’s world are exposed to about the First World War.
Which is your favourite book on the First World War and why?
Because I study First World War literature (mostly novels, but also critical/theoretical works, and history books) this is a very hard question for me! However, if I had to pick, I’d have to say Pat Barker’s Regeneration, only because it is the first novel that I read about the Great War, and because of the unique way that it mixes history/biography with fiction to bring some of the most well-known figures of the war to life for the reader.