By Susan Kingsley Kent

Aftershocks stories 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 striking violence opposed to these considered as 'un-English'.

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Extra info for Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918–1931

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They wore a pink uniform,” he noted. ”24 This strain of influenza produced in many of its victims a variety of vivid and frightening physical symptoms that had not been encountered in previous incarnations of the disease. ” “The dreaded blueness” of the face caused by heliotrope cyanosis disturbed observers, lay persons and physicians alike, who cited the incidence of this particular manifestation repeatedly. “The purple-black skin was terrifying to everyone,” wrote Eileen Pettigrew. ” It was this symptom that signalled almost certain death, doctors came to understand.

Certainly this imagery of shattering informed popular renditions of the post war mind. As we have seen, combat veterans represented their minds as fragmented and shattered in the memoirs that poured forth beginning in 1928. Popular fiction incorporated this model in a number of characters as well, beginning as early as 1919. Rebecca West’s returning soldier, the shell-shocked Chris Baldry, for instance, had abandoned in his mind his current life and returned to a time 15 years earlier, stranding his cousin and his wife Kitty in the present and taking up with his former love, Margaret.

Rather, notes one sociologist, “traumatic wounds inflicted on individuals can combine to create a mood, an ethos—a group culture, almost, that is different from (and more than) the sum of the private wounds that make it up. ” What theorist Cathy Caruth calls the “radical disruption and gaps of traumatic experience” mirror the sense Britons had that the war had produced a gulf between one world prior to the war and another after it. Moreover, the mechanisms by which traumatized individuals seek to escape the agonies of their memories may be utilized by larger collectivities as well.

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