Aftershocks: The Politics of Trauma in Britain, 1918-1931 by Susan Kingsley Kent

By Susan Kingsley Kent

This ebook examines the influence of collective trauma bobbing up out of the good struggle at the politics of the Nineteen Twenties in Britain. Aftershocks experiences 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 notable violence opposed to these considered as un-English.

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Everything else was blotted out—even your personality. You were just a primordial, enduring, suffering nerve. And then, after an hour, after a day—that sea withdrew; and you emerged, if not to life, to something that was tolerable. Ackerley found himself pursuing sex obsessively, a compulsion he was not able to throw off until the 1940s. Some killed themselves: Bury men who had joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a “pals brigade” suffered terrible losses to suicide. 41 Returning from the war brought its own pain, especially for those who had found in the trenches a camaraderie they could find no where else.

It had left us curiously free. 7 Something like the blurring of gender lines that took place during the war continued afterwards, as young women of virtually every class— called, derisively, “flappers”—dressed in boyish fashions, cut their hair short, smoked cigarettes, drove cars, and generally pursued an active, adventurous lifestyle. Their counterparts, the “bright young things,” men who had been too young to go to war in the years 1914–1918, offered themselves as effeminate contrasts, till it appeared, in the popular press at least, that young men and women had simply switched roles, characteristics, and styles with one another.

The sound of a car backfiring “would send me flat on my face, or running for cover,” while lectures he attended at Oxford were often interrupted by scenes of battle. These flashbacks continued through 1928. ”39 In part because they feared the nightmares that would follow sleep, insomnia haunted returning veterans. Some succumbed to amnesia— bouts of blackouts usually followed Graves’ flashbacks. R. Ackerley felt enormous guilt that he had survived the war when his brother, Peter, had not. He found that he could not remember anything about the weeks he shared with his brother in the same battalion; his memory of other events and people was so bad, he allowed, that he could not say with any confidence that he really cared about anyone.

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