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Somatic, Sensuous, and Spatial Geographies in First World War Medical Caregiving Narratives

Allitt, Marie (2018) Somatic, Sensuous, and Spatial Geographies in First World War Medical Caregiving Narratives. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Military-medical personnel have a uniquely complex perspective and experience. The medic, whether in the capacity of doctor, nurse, or ambulance driver, is vulnerable, both vicariously and directly, to the effects of extreme physical and psychological harm, as well as inherently involved in alleviating, but also intensifying, pain and trauma. This thesis explores the representation of such caregiving experiences in first-hand life-writing, focusing primarily on memoirs, diaries, and semi-novelisations. By exploring the experiences of doctors, nurses, stretcher bearers, orderlies, and ambulance drivers, and crucially the ways they represent those experiences, this thesis explores the complexities that accompany both the experience and the attempt to articulate and communicate it. The intensity of the experiences is manifest in their representations, their hypersensitivity to the literal and figurative qualities of their sensory environment, and the somatic and spatial disorientation that accompanies the crisis situations of care. Very little attention has been given to space and medicine in the First World War context; existing scholarship dwells upon the metaphor and analogy of ‘No Man’s Land’ to explain the medics’ experience, with relatively little further scrutiny. This thesis develops from an initial premise that liminality is only one of the spatial characteristics of the medic’s experience under conditions of war, and this research is thus conceptually informed by a richer array of spatial concepts. There is much that attention to spatial contexts can tell us about the embodied experience of medics, how they relate to both environment and other bodies, as well as the affective dimension of their experience of trauma, and of the coping strategies they develop. This thesis situates military-medical writings within the wider context of war literature and the literature of medicine, and makes a contribution to critical medical humanities scholarship.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Depositing User: Ms Marie Allitt
Date Deposited: 03 Dec 2018 16:26
Last Modified: 03 Dec 2018 16:26
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/22044

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