A.B., M.A., M.Phil, M.St, PhD
School of Arts
Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment
Working in a world of hurt fills a significant gap in the studies of the psychological trauma wrought by war. It focuses not on soldiers, but on the men and women who fought to save them in casualty clearing stations, hospitals and prison camps. The writings by doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and other medical personnel reveal the spectrum of their responses that range from breakdown to resilience. Through a rich analysis of both published and unpublished personal from the First World War in the early twentieth century to Iraq in the early twenty-first, Acton and Potter put centre stage the letters, diaries, memoirs and weblogs that have chronicled physical and emotional suffering, many for the first time. Wide-ranging in scope, interdisciplinary in method, and written in a scholarly yet accessible style, Working in a world of hurt is essential reading for lecturers and students as well as the general reader.
No abstract - authors offer a brief extract in lieu but it's not succinct or brief enough to warrant including here.
The United States occupied a unique position between 1914 and 1918: ﬁ rst as a seemingly detached spectator and second as a crusading participant. Yet it is this supreme conﬁ dence in the country’s mission “to vindicate the principles of peace and the justice in the life of the world as against selﬁ sh and autocratic power” (we hear resonances today2) that marks the particularly American response to the “war to end all war.” Naive in its assuredness, evangelical in its outlook, the sense of mission is reﬂ ected in the writings of American noncombatant witnesses, particularly nurses. Now largely forgotten, a signiﬁcant corpus of writing exists, published and unpublished. Previous scholarly studies have tended to focus on a limited number of what may be considered canonical works, such as Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone (1929) and Ellen La Motte’s The Backwash of War (1916), both of which are considered elsewhere in this volume. This chapter, however, seeks to illuminate less wellknown writings, by less famous women. Published accounts and letters home to family served to enlighten a distant American public - “distant” both in geography and in mind. Published memoirs in particular sought to encourage ﬁnancial support for various aid associations and, above all, to bear witness to the suffering of the ﬁghting men. Their role as pro-war, pro-Allies propaganda should also not be underestimated. Indeed, they formed part of the unofficial means by which the country became convinced of the need for its involvement in this European conﬂict. This chapter will explore how, despite all the self-conscious certainty that the US is the beacon of light for the world, these memoirs and letters are decidedly more contradictory and multifaceted than a ﬁrst glance at the assured exterior would indicate.
Fellow, The English Association
Advisory Panel, Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum
Advisory Board, Teaching and Learning War Research Network