Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Dr. Gabriel Hankins
Dr. Walt Hunter
Dr. Lindsay Thomas
Long have first-hand accounts of fighting men been privileged in studies of the First World War, creating a narrow understanding of life at this influential time. Firsthand narratives of the soldier experience are important and present a complex history of attitudes towards the war that has had a lasting influence on the contemporary view of The First World War. However, it is not the sole experience of the war. As a departure from the narrative of the soldier at the front, many critics turn to later, modernist fiction about the war. These texts are still centered on soldiers and the war, and work more as complements rather than alternatives to the memoirs, presenting a similar narrative of the British soldier who, driven by patriotic duty, gives either his life or sanity for an uncertain cause. These narratives have had a massive impact on contemporary views of World War I. Scholars have thus created a dichotomy between war writing and modernism that characterizes studies of the First World War, resulting in a serious misrepresentation of culture at this time.
By looking at The Publishers’ Circular and Booksellers’ Record, a book trade publication containing a list of publications printed each week, we can see that in 1914 short novels were extremely popular among the English reading public and widely printed. With novels about the war not yet in print, this fiction was much lighter in tone. Readers preferred novels, rapidly produced by a variety of authors who followed proven formulas to ensure success. The start of the First World War seems to have had little impact on the outpouring of this popular formula fiction. Instead, the war pushed more people towards the pastime of light reading. These light novels reveal a set of ideologies iii that give insight into dominant cultural views in England during this time, including an importance of the middle classes, an interest in the colonies and their promise of adventure, loyalty to England, and the idea that suffering was necessary to help others.
Swanson, Caroline, "Formulas of Fiction: The First World War and the Popular Fiction of 1914" (2016). All Theses. 3726.