Touch and Intimacy in First World War Literature
The First World War ravaged the male body on an unprecedented scale, yet fostered moments of physical intimacy and tenderness among the soldiers in the trenches. Touch, the most elusive and private of the senses, became central to war experience. War writing is haunted by experiences of physical contact: from the muddy realities of the front to the emotional intensity of trench life, to the traumatic obsession with the wounded body in nurses' memoirs. Through extensive archival and historical research, analysing previously unknown letters and diaries alongside literary writings by figures such as Owen and Brittain, Santanu Das recovers the sensuous world of the First World War trenches and hospitals. This original and evocative study alters our understanding of the period as well as of the body at war, and illuminates the perilous intimacy between sense experience, emotion and language as we try to make meaning in times of crisis.
- Electronic book text
- 14 Mar 2014
- CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS
- Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
- Cambridge, United Kingdom
- 21 b/w illus.
Table of contents
Introduction: 'Touch is the spirit and rule of all'; Part I. Mud: 1. 'A real monster that sucked': the threat of mud in First World War literature; 2. Muddy narratives; Part II. Intimacies: 3. 'Kiss me, Hardy': the dying kiss in the First World War trenches; 4. Wilfred Owen and the sense of touch; Part III. Wounds: 5. 'Deep into his body': service, sympathy and suffering in the nurses' memoirs; 6. The operating theatre; Conclusion; Bibliography.
Review of the hardback: '... delicately nuanced, intricately subtle ...' The Times Literary Supplement Review of the hardback: 'Santanu Das has written an original, closely argued and highly detailed account of the way in which touch - the physical interaction with one's surroundings and one's fellow soldiers - defined the experience of the war and the ways in which it was recorded. ... it is packed with original research and is uncommonly well written.' Daily Telegraph Review of the hardback: 'Touch and Intimacy melds a wide range of sources into a brilliantly convincing whole. Methodologically, it makes use of a sophisticated and erudite mix of theory ...' CLIO 'There are some beautiful and revealing passages of writing here ...' The Ivor Gurney Society Journal
About Santanu Das
Santanu Das is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London.