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dc.contributor.authorHughes-Fuller, Patricia
dc.descriptionAs per the information on my grant application, I participated in Memory, Mediation and Remediation conference (Apr-May 2011) sponsored by the Department of English and Film Studies, Wilfred Laurier University. My attendance at this conference was beneficial for the following reasons: 1) It provided an opportunity (my first) to present and receive peer feedback on my ongoing research on First World War correspondence. 2) Thematically, the conference touched on the importance of both text and visual images to the process of re/membering past events and constructing narratives across historically imposed gaps of time and space. 3) Two of the keynote speakers, Alison Landsberg and Marlene Kadar, admittedly in very different ways, are engaged with scholarship that is directly relevant to my own work. Landsberg’s term, “prosthetic memory”, encapsulates the idea that, through representations (and in her work, specifically those provided via the mass media) we can experience memories that are not our own. Kadar’s extensive work on life writing and experience with archival research provide a useful guidelines for someone embarking on a project such as my own. She is also series editor of the Life Writing Series published by Wilfred Laurier University Press. 4) Finally, there were six other presentations all of which, in various ways, dealt with mediated representations of war. I was fortunate in that three of the four keynotes (Landsberg, Hemstra and Kadar) attended my presentation (one of three concurrent sessions, on Friday April 29). The audience response seemed generally favorable, and Marlene Kadar was particularly sympathetic to the challenges faced by those trying to construct a narrative and persona (essentially, to write a life) based on fragments of texts and images. Dr. Kadar urged me to continue researching other examples of war correspondence in order to strenghthen my premise that it is the lives of ordinary infantrymen and not valorizations of exceptional individuals (i.e.heroes) that best invoke the collective experience of trench warfare. I have attached a copy of my powerpoint presentation (images only). I have also attached the accompanying commentary (“Presentation Outline”) which was (and still is) in the form of roughly drafted “speaker’s notes”.en
dc.description.abstractIn this paper I will explore the role of material culture in the convergence of narrative and memory with specific reference to a family archive of World War I letters and photos. I take as my jumping off point Michele Barrett’s insistence that her family’s war stories “do not derive from individual or cultural memory… there can be no personal memory attached to these family documents for someone my age looking at them now. But there is affect and these stories are very moving” (157, emphasis added). This speaks to the power of narrative, and, as Alison Landsberg reminds us, if the narrative is not there, or has been disrupted by the hiatuses of time and space, we may find ourselves obliged, like Quentin Compson and Shrevelin McCannon, to “make things up.” Here Landsberg is specifically writing against the assumption that “family memory, the memory handed down from a parent to a child [is a privileged and] reliable source of information about the past” (83). In the case of my family archive, before I viewed the photos or read the letters, there was the shadow of a story, but little more than that, given the generational distances and the gaps (both literal and otherwise) in existing texts. Add to this the “great silence” that characterized the First World War and its immediate aftermath (Nicolson) and “the presumed inadequacy of language itself to convey the facts about trench warfare”(Fussell 170). The writer of the most of the letters, Corporal Walter Sangster, was killed in action and his fellow-soldiers who survived were notorious for their inability--or unwillingness-- to communicate their experiences, even to members of their own families. Returning to Landsberg, I will argue that memories of the First World War are collective and social because they are the product of individual bereavements experienced on a mass scale (Winter 224). Photographs, letters, and similar trace objects found their way into trunks and boxes in thousands of households, and while neither commodities, nor mass media representations, they nonetheless have the capacity to evoke experiences not our own and interpellate us as “social, historical beings” (Landsberg 47). Almost a century later, and in ways not dissimilar to slavery or the holocaust, the ruptures and traumas of the First World War call for prosthetic interventions.en
dc.subjectMaterial cultureen
dc.subjectWorld War Ien
dc.subjectAlison Landsbergen
dc.subjectFamily archiveen
dc.titleStory Not (Yet) My Own: First World War Correspondence and Prosthetic Memoryen

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