By Susan Kingsley Kent
This booklet examines the effect of collective trauma bobbing up out of the good struggle at the politics of the Nineteen Twenties in Britain. Aftershocks stories how meanings of shellshock and imagery providing 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
Fred Alford has argued in this regard that “hatred is egostructuring. ”37 We might, for example, understand the cruelty and violence of Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange as a product of his efforts to defend himself, his ego, against the ravages of childhood trauma and grief that threatened to tear him apart. Men and women returning from the theatre of war found themselves disoriented, confused, helpless, and useless. “You may say that everyone who had taken physical part in the war was then mad,” wrote Ford Maddox Ford.
His sleeve catches the other one and sends it down to crash in a thousand pieces on the ﬂoor . . ” Dorothy Sayers, whose husband returned from the war shell shocked, gave Peter Wimsey and many of the suspects who peopled her crime stories the same history. All of her early mysteries contain one or more shell-shocked character; as one ﬁgure puts it, Here we’ve been and had a war, what has left ‘undreds o’ men in what you might call a state of ekilibrium. They’ve seen all their friends blown up or shot to pieces .
For some, refusal to confront the pain of their losses offered the only way of surviving. Vera Brittain found that her “only hope” after the deaths of her ﬁancé, her friends, and her brother “was to become the complete automaton . . Thought was too dangerous,” she said. “If once I began to think out exactly why my friends had died . . ”19 The affective reticence characteristic of Britons, joined with public calls for the bereaved not to wear mourning clothes—“in England,” Playne explained, “outward signs of mourning were taboo”—compelled many to bury their grief and put a good face on things, compounding the damage done by the deaths of their loved ones.
Aftershocks: Politics and Trauma in Britain, 1918-1931 by Susan Kingsley Kent