Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

Traumatic Re-enactments: Portraits of Veterans in Contemporary British and Canadian First World War Fiction

Anna Branach-Kallas



The paper focuses on the portrait of the First World War veterans in selected British and Canadian novels published at the turn of the twenty-first century. The authors use various means to depict the phenomenon of trauma: from flashbacks disrupting the present, through survivor guilt, nightmares and suicide, to aporia and the collapse of representation. The comparative approach used in the article highlights national differences, yet also shows that the discourse of futility and trauma provides a trasnational framework to convey the suffering of the First World War. As a result, although resulting in social castration and disempowerment, trauma serves here as a vehicle for a critique of the disastrous aftermath of the 1914-1918 conflict and the erasures of collective memory. Re-enacting traumatic plots, the British and Canadian novels under consideration explore little known facets of the 1914-1918 conflict, while simultaneously addressing some of our most pressing anxieties about the present, such as social marginalization, otherness, and lonely death.


Veterans; First World War Fiction; Britain; Canada; Trauma


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