In her article “Trauma, Ethics, and the Body at War in Brittain, Borden and Bagnold,” Carolina Sánchez-Palencia Carazo discusses how the autobiographical accounts of the conflict by Vera Brittain, Enid Bagnold and Mary Borden, inspired by their experiences as voluntary nurses in the front, deconstruct the meanings of femininity, masculinity and patriotism, contesting the official rhetoric of passivity that defined the role of women in World War I. Their extreme engagement with the precariousness and vulnerability of others elicits an empathic response that can be interpreted through Judith Butler (2004; 2009), Emmanuel Lévinas (1969) and Alan Badiou’s (1993) ethics of alterity. Against the abstract assumptions of honor and heroism in many male war accounts, these women’s face-to-face encounter with the suffering bodies impels them to an intersubjective relation defined by sensibility and affectivity. Their exposure to the limits of (in)humanity implies a drive towards commonality that cannot be overlooked and suggests a gendered intervention in the body politic in which the war/peace, front/home binaries are necessarily redefined. Their texts are also “bodies in transit” inasmuch as they move between Victorian conventional order and a sense of Modernist fragmentariness evoking the distorted anatomies of the combatants they nursed and signaling a clear interaction between war, gender and experimental writing. Re-visiting Brittain, Bagnold and Borden from the critical perspectives of the Ethical Turn and Trauma Studies is essential for a reconceptualization of war and of the intricacies of its representation.
Sánchez-Palencia Carazo, Carolina.
"Trauma, Ethics, and the Body at War in Brittain, Borden and Bagnold."
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