The Destiny and Representations of Facially Disfigured Soldiers during the First World War and the Interwar Period in France, Germany and Great Britain
Gehrhardt, Marjorie Irène Suzanne
Date: 26 September 2013
University of Exeter
PhD in French
The frequency and seriousness of facial injuries during the First World War account for the presence of disfigured men in significant numbers in European interwar society. Physical reconstruction, psychological and social consequences had long-term consequences for experts and lay people alike. Despite the number of wounded men and the ...
The frequency and seriousness of facial injuries during the First World War account for the presence of disfigured men in significant numbers in European interwar society. Physical reconstruction, psychological and social consequences had long-term consequences for experts and lay people alike. Despite the number of wounded men and the impact of disfigurement, the facially injured soldiers of the First World War have rarely been the focus of academic research. This thesis aims to bridge this gap through a careful investigation of the lives and representations of gueules cassées, as they came to be known in France. It examines the experience and perceptions of facial disfigurement from the moment of the injury and throughout the years following, thereby setting the parameters for a study of the real and the mediated presence of disfigured veterans in interwar society. The chronological frame of this study begins in 1914 and ends in 1939, since the perception and representations of facial disfigurement were of particular significance during the First World War and its aftermath. Using a comparative approach to explore the experience and representations of disfigurement, this study investigates the presence of facially injured combatants and veterans in 1920s and 1930s society. With an interdisciplinary perspective, literary and artistic depictions as well as historical documents are examined in order to complement contemporary descriptions with the voices of the men themselves. This study sheds new light on the history of wounded soldiers of the First World War through in-depth analysis of original documents from France, Germany and Great Britain. This thesis provides the first detailed comparative study of British, French and German disfigured men. It emphasises the at times paradoxical situation of veterans who sought to lead ordinary lives but also became symbols of the war. All five chapters highlight the visibility of facially injured men and explore different responses to their presence whilst also interrogating their role and image in wartime and interwar societies. As such it aims to make a contribution to the cultural history of the First World War and its aftermath.
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