Thesis Title: Therapeutic literature in the British periodical, 1914-1928: A Bibliotherapy approach.
The concept of reading for therapy has been around for some time, but the term ‘Bibliotherapy’ was first used in a 1916 essay in the periodical Atlantic Monthly by Samuel McChord Crothers. Utilised by medical and education professionals for decades, literary studies of Bibliotherapy are only just emerging, and this study will contribute to the field by examining the use of literary material in magazines of, and in the decade following, the First World War. My research aims to provide evidence from Great War writing to argue that certain types of fiction can unlock repressed trauma, asking whether writers and editors deliberately exposed a traumatised readership to anxiety-inducing literature in order to mediate and minister to shell-shock and grief, or whether they offered escapist fiction in order to manage a nation's trauma.
With the application of recent theories and practice regarding Bibliotherapy to popular periodicals between 1914 and 1928, my analysis will focus on whether short stories were an antidote to repression, encouraging recovering servicemen to deal with trauma by reliving it, or if fiction offered ways to mediate their experiences through escapist adventure tales or supernatural ghost stories. As the first literary study of its kind highlighting the therapeutic value of the short story form in periodicals, I will examine fiction contained with the serious literary journals as well as the popular 'pulp' magazines. Using archival records and textual analysis, and taking a ‘history of reading’ perspective by considering the traumatised state of the British nation, I will be listening to the voices of editors and readers through letters and journals and the research will deliver a new exploration into the literature of war. This study has the potential to impact on medical, educational, historical and societal discourses about war, trauma and literature, and could also benefit veterans’ charities and bibliotherapists, enabling them to utilise literature as a form of therapy.
Supervisors and Institution(s):
Dr Alice Wood (De Montfort University)
Dr Sinéad Mooney (De Montfort University)
Dr Sharon Ouditt (Nottingham Trent University)
Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):
Other Research Interests:
History and literature of the Vietnam War
South-African apartheid literature
Women's writing of the first world war
Shakespeare and mental health in performance
The transition between modernist and postmodernist writing