The image of Shell Shock: psychological trauma, masculinity, and the Great War in British and American cinema

Close, Jobe (2017). The image of Shell Shock: psychological trauma, masculinity, and the Great War in British and American cinema. University of Birmingham. M.A.

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The profound brutality and absurdity of the First World War has been meticulously detailed in the cinematic representations of the conflict. At their epicentre, we frequently find the symbolic figure of the shell-shocked man, who, overcome by the fear and exhaustion that loomed over the trenches and battlefields of the Western Front, was often condemned as failing to meet expected standards of masculine behaviour. This filmic fixation reflects the dominant cultural perception of a war of which shell shock came to be emblematic, giving rise to a considerable scholarship on the social, medical, martial, and political discourses by which the disorder was surrounded. What is lacking is any substantial examination of how shell shock has been interpreted by filmmakers. Focussing on British and American cinema from 1916 to 2014, this thesis explores shell shock’s cinematic identity chiefly in terms of masculinity, its most central historical theme. It argues that filmmakers have tended to return to the Great War and its most famous malady during historical periods of marked social consciousness, turbulence, or discovery in areas of thematic importance to the disorder – gender, mental health, or military conflict – and examines the relationship between these films and their historical contexts.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.A.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.A.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of English, Drama and American & Canadian Studies, Department of Film and Creative Writing
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN1993 Motion Pictures


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