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Self-Portraits

Subjectivity in the Works of Vera Brittain

Andrea Peterson

In 1915 Vera Brittain began to wonder whether it was possible to ‘make a book out of the very essence of one’s self’. In this study, the author moves away from Brittain’s already well-documented political passions – socialism, feminism and pacifism – to discuss her enduring fascination with philosophy and the problems surrounding the literary representation of subjectivity. Using the psychoanalytical, philosophical and literary theories known to Brittain as well as some more recent and pertinent theoretical developments, the author examines not only Brittain’s explicitly autobiographical writings, but also all of her published novels, The Dark Tide (1923), Not Without Honour (1924), Honourable Estate (1936), Account Rendered (1945) and Born 1925 (1948). This insightful and accessible book details Brittain’s innovative writing methods and re-evaluates her contribution to the development of the novel during the early twentieth century. The author offers a new and interesting perspective on one of the most popular writers of the First World War.
Contents: Vera Brittain’s Life as a Writer: A Process of Redefinition – Marked by Conflicts: Subjectivity in Testament of Youth – ‘Wish-Fulfilment’ Portraits: Early Self-Representations in The Dark Tide and Not Without Honour – A Creative Philosophy: The Idealised Self-Image in Honourable Estate – War Trauma and the Transsexual Self: Brittain’s Account Re[ge]ndered – Subjectivity and Natality: Self-Effacement in Born 1925 – Vera Brittain’s Self-Portraits: Subjectivity, Literary Innovation and the Legacy of the First World War.