Home/Front Trauma: Domestic War and the Struggle for Women's Expression in American Literature, 1892-1948 Open Access
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My dissertation focuses on American authors during the end of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century who struggled with representing a collective cultural trauma as well as their own simultaneous individual trauma. I establish that there is a symbiotic relationship between a cultural understanding of war trauma and a cultural understanding of women's struggle against patriarchal control, both of which are based upon resistance to domination. I demonstrate that within the years from 1892-1948--encompassing World War I, the Spanish-American War, and World War II, as well as the advent of modernism and early feminism--there is an observable pattern in stories of resistance to domination written by women, from being labeled as byproducts of mental illness to their gradual acceptance as a respected form of political and social protest. My primary focus is on traumatized and traumatizing domestic relationships, and the authorial figures I pair in my chapters represent this dynamic of troubled domesticity in a way that is not often possible. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald, and Martha Gellhorn were each driven by an impetus to record her own version of the traumatic relationship with a dominant male companion, a relationship which in many ways determined how these women are still remembered in the popular imagination today. As a result, their writings provide a virtual point-counterpoint to what has, until now, been a largely unchallenged historical narrative of these women's domestic relationships, and thus, their histories.