Rivers, Myers and the Culture of War Neuroses

Robert Hemmings

in Modern Nostalgia

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633067
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748651887 | DOI:
Rivers, Myers and the Culture of War Neuroses

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This chapter presents a historical outline of trauma as it was understood during the First World War, the interwar years, and the Second World War, and studies the cultural context of war neuroses in Britain, pinpointing their roots in nineteenth-century models of traumatic neuroses. It discusses the transformation of war neuroses into ‘shell shock’, a term that was coined by Charles Myers in 1915. Myers, along with W.H.R. Rivers, determined that ‘shell shock’ was due to psychological damage, and not physical damage. The chapter notes that the Freudian concept of repression is relevant to Rivers’ and Sassoon’s understanding of trauma. It also shows the link between Sassoon’s socially detached response and the wider social and cultural response to the renewal and threat of modern war.

Keywords: trauma; war neuroses; traumatic neuroses; shell shock; Charles Myers; W.H.R. Rivers; psychological damage; repression

Chapter.  12352 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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