Gender and the Role of War Literature in Shaping Collective Memory: The Wartime Writings of Mary Borden
Date: 5:00pm PST November 14, 2018 Location: Watzek Library, Pamplin Room
Watzek Library, Pamplin Room
Dixon Award Presentation by Katie Mitcheltree
Female voices are under-represented in the poetry of World War I, in part because of the belief that those who have not experienced combat cannot understand it, and therefore cannot communicate it to others. According to this “combat gnosticism,” only soldiers who fought in the trenches can write war poetry. But what of those non-combatants who worked close enough to the front that they were under direct threat from gunfire and artillery? What of those who dealt directly with the bloody aftermath of the war’s most devastating battles? Mary Borden, who published several poems while working at a field hospital on the Western front, is one such case.
Katie traveled to two archives over the summer of 2018 to examine the papers of Ms. Borden: the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University, and the Churchill Archive Center at the University of Cambridge in England. She examined manuscripts of Mary Borden’s World War I book, The Forbidden Zone, poems Borden wrote while stationed at the battle of the Somme, as well as personal correspondence and letters exchanged between Borden and her second husband while at the front. Katie’s project explores a prominent theme in both Borden’s published writings and personal correspondence: memory, remembrance, and the role of writing in shaping collective memories of war.
Thanks to alumni Hillary (’99) and Adam (’01) Dixon, the Dixon Award grants $2,500 each year to a junior English major to enrich their current studies and prepare for senior year.