Remapping the home front: locating citizenship in British women's Great War fiction

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Northeastern University Press, Oct 10, 2002 - History - 183 pages
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World War I witnessed the unprecedented involvement of British civilians in the realities of waging battle. With the battlefields just across the Channel, soldiers could quickly return home on leave and women could easily go to the front as nurses or observers. And British citizens faced the new and too frequently consummated threat of enemy air raids. In this book, Debra Rae Cohen explores how such developments influenced four women writers-Violet Hunt, Rose Macaulay, Stella Benson, and Rebecca West-in producing new kinds of war stories told from women's perspectives: stories from the home front.

Cohen focuses particularly on how Hunt, Macaulay, Benson, and West negotiated wartime rhetoric in their novels. Despite the porousness of the border between home and war, propaganda efforts strove to depict the home front as a place of safety and enclosure. It was a place where women kept the home fires burning-even if the fires they were stoking were in munitions factories. Cohen examines how each of the writers responded to such depictions and demonstrates that despite their general support for the war effort, the authors resisted simplistic representations of women's roles.

Primed by the growing prewar suffrage movement and new ideas about women's place in the public sphere, each author explored such questions as: How could women resist the passive manipulation by wartime propaganda? How could women find positions as emerging citizens within the parameters of war? In answer, these writers created fantasy spaces and enclosures within their novels for interrogating the discourses of war. Their project of "remapping" became the battle over women's place, their visibility and anonymity during the war, and their control over self-representation.

Written with humor and verve, this book will engage readers interested in feminist literary research and in the intersection between war and fiction.

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The Public Private War of Violet Hunt
Rose Macaulay and the Oppression of Vision
Stella Benson ReGenres the War Story

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About the author (2002)

Debra Rae Cohen is a lecturer in the Department of English at the University of Arkansas. She spent twelve years as a cultural journalist in New York City.