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Inside the “Butcher’s Shop”: Women’s Great War Writing and Surgical Meat

  • Vicki Tromanhauser
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)

Abstract

Female non-combatants witnessed some of the most acute bodily horrors of the First World War when they worked as ambulance drivers and Voluntary Aid Detachment nurses in the medical corps to preserve the shapely human body from its formless other. Women’s Great War writing navigates the ambiguous and uncertain ontological borders of the human through the alimentary as an experience that traverses physiology, sociality, and aesthetics. Their memoirs and fiction insist upon the status of the wounded body as meat—“German sausage”, “dead mutton”, and “ragoût of mouton”. Such testimony repeatedly presents us with the ugliness, the unsightly and repellent qualities of the matter of our own meatness, of fleshy substance that eschews translation into a thing of beauty or cultural value. The unflinching, graphic language of women’s Great War writing pulls us down into the immediacy of the stuff on the operating table and refuses us the security of ethical distance or aesthetic abstraction.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vicki Tromanhauser
    • 1
  1. 1.State University of New YorkNew PaltzUSA

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