Aberdeen conference ‘The Fictional First World War’

Booking is now open for the conference in Aberdeen, on ‘The Fictional First World War’, (6-9 April, 2017). Here’s a link to it.

I’ve been sent a provisional programme, and it is packed with good speakers and interesting topics.

My own paper will have the title: They ought to ’ave shot that bugger’: A Century of Fictional Executions. In it I will contrast the presentation of the shooting of deserters in fiction of the twenties (like Herbert’s The Secret Battle and Montague’s Rough Justice) with representations since the 1980s (as in Private Peaceful and Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and beyond). The deserter increasingly becomes an admirable, even  heroic figure, rather than a pathetic one.

My title is from the greatest of First World War novels,  Frederic Manning’s Her Privates We. It is the scornful comment a soldier makes about Miller, a deserter who had been sentenced and then reprieved. Manning describes him: ‘He had a weak, mean, and cunning face; but there was something so abject in his humiliation, that one felt for him the kind of pity which can scarcely tolerate its own object.’

How different this attitude is from that evoked by the emotive Shot At Dawn statue in the National Arboretum.


(Image from Wikipedia)


  1. Posted March 2, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    There is one contemporary novel which bucks the trend: Rose Macaulay’s Non-Combatants and Others, have you read it?

    • Posted March 2, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I have, and a very good book it is, too. But it wasn’t alone in expressing disquiet about the war. Several other novels, to a greater or lesser extent, show anxiety about the conflict between the demands of war and traditional social values.

      • Posted March 2, 2017 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks. I am particularly interested in women’s fiction of the time- during the war and immediately afterwards.

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