Dr Jessica Meyer
Dorothy L. Sayers’s 1928 novel ‘The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club’ is, as the title hints, a novel about war. At its centre are two brothers, George, who was gassed in the First World War and sufferers from shell shock in its aftermath, and Robert, a Regular army officer who was ‘a jolly fine soldier’. Although presented as two individuals, these two characters represent two sides of the same coin, namely inverse psychological responses to the experience of war. George’s shell shock is a classic flight into illness, while Robert’s emotional resilience that borders on callousness. In this lecture, Dr Meyer will explore Sayers’s representation of these two characters in detail, locating them in both developing understandings of war trauma and British cultural memory of the First World War. In doing so, she hopes to shed new light on how shell shock has become the dominant symbolic wound of the war in British culture, shaping both our historical understanding of the war and our current commemorative practices.
This talk is part of a series of events accompanying the exhibition ‘Why War’, 6 August – 19 October 2014.