Fighting Forces, Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War

Fighting Forces, Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War

Fighting Forces, Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War

Fighting Forces, Writing Women: Identity and Ideology in the First World War

Synopsis

In a period of high idealism, and 'titanic illimitable death' women ofter found themselves longing to play an active role alongside their male compatriots. In this fascinating work, Sharon Ouditt examines the traumatic nature of women's experiences during the Great War, and the complex ideological structures they constructed in order to legitimate their position in the public world of work and politics. Using a wealth of historical material - contemporary propaganda, journals, magazines, memoirs and fiction - Sharon Ouditt challenges the notion that women achieved sudden and unproblematic independence, and demonstrates the ways in which women mediated their attraction to a fixed female identity with their desire for radical social change.

Excerpt

It is, of course, understood that introductions are always written last, but I wonder if I might stretch the confessional convention and admit that the concluding chapter of this book was written first. It was a question of the influence of anxiety. 'Why did Virginia Woolf write the way she did?' I was asked, approximately ten years ago, while attempting to gain entry to a certain university. I didn't know. I didn't get the place. But I did become obsessed with the question and permitted it to interrogate me through undergraduate and postgraduate study, through the miners' strike, through the impact of French feminisms, through the Gulf War and through my own negotiations with motherhood, teaching and thesis-writing. My research was increasingly influenced by feminist thinking in Britain, France and America that pointed up the challenges made by Woolf, and by other writers, to cultural paradigms that centred on a pattern of domination that could only ultimately be seen as destructive. The 'Great' War seemed a tragic, if ideal manifestation of this pattern, and I became convinced that Woolf was engaged in a literary and political critique of that war from a stance of radical female alterity. And so I wrote about it. I later became troubled by two things: first, the nature and extent of Woolf's 'radicalism', and second, the feminist context within which she was operating. By her own admission creation is not a single and solitary act. Who, then, were her political and literary sisters challenging (obliquely?), criticising (wryly?), undercutting (amusingly?) a symbolic order that had suffered-in both senses-one world war and was heading for another?

I launched, therefore, a double-headed line of enquiry. One element was concerned with the theoretical problem of

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