By Susan Kingsley Kent
This e-book examines the influence of collective trauma bobbing up out of the nice conflict at the politics of the Nineteen Twenties in Britain. Aftershocks reports how meanings of shellshock and imagery offering the traumatized psyche as shattered contributed to Britons understandings in their political selves within the Nineteen Twenties. It connects the strength of feelings to the political tradition of a decade which observed outstanding violence opposed to these considered as un-English.
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Additional info for Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918-1931
Vera Brittain found that her “only hope” after the deaths of her ﬁancé, her friends, and her brother “was to become the complete automaton . . Thought was too dangerous,” she said. “If once I began to think out exactly why my friends had died . . ”19 The affective reticence characteristic of Britons, joined with public calls for the bereaved not to wear mourning clothes—“in England,” Playne explained, “outward signs of mourning were taboo”—compelled many to bury their grief and put a good face on things, compounding the damage done by the deaths of their loved ones.
Others suffered delusions and hallucinations. Vera Brittain became obsessed by the belief that her face was changing, at one time sprouting a beard and at another turning into a witch. ”40 Returning soldiers, nurses, and ambulance drivers could not control their emotions; they felt hysterical, overwhelmed. As Rathbone described it, sometimes you felt quite ordinary . . And suddenly, out of the four corners as it were, misery came, and swamped you. You could do nothing about it. You just sat at the heart of it.
In language signiﬁcant for its imagery of the war, he added, “opposite the house was a great inﬁrmary where, I learned, people were cut open. ” The “cutting up of living bodies” haunted his dreams and perhaps his waking hallucinations as he lay in bed under a picture of a gypsy woman. “When I thought I was asleep the picture would open on loud hinges and disclose the world of cutting up live but uncomplaining bodies,” he recounted. “It was lighted by ﬁre. I was given the choice of joining the bodies or else remaining where I was, in the big lumpy ﬂock bed which was steadily ﬁlling with horse shit .
Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918-1931 by Susan Kingsley Kent