Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture

ISBN : 9780198857785

Aaron Shaheen
288 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Jun 2020
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Drawing on rehabilitation publications, novels by both famous and obscure American writers, and even the prosthetic masks of a classically trained sculptor, Great War Prostheses in American Literature and Culture addresses the ways in which prosthetic devices were designed, promoted, and depicted in America in the years during and after the First World War.

The war's mechanized weaponry ushered in an entirely new relationship between organic bodies and the technology that could both cause, and attempt to remedy, hideous injuries. Such a relationship was also evident in the realm of prosthetic development, which by the second decade of the twentieth century promoted the belief that a prosthesis should be a spiritual extension of the person who possessed it. This spiritualized vision of prostheses proved particularly resonant in American postwar culture. Relying on some of the most recent developments in literary and disability studies, the book's six chapters explain how a prosthesis's spiritual promise was largely dependent on its ability to nullify an injury and help an amputee renew or even improve upon his prewar life. But if it proved too cumbersome, obtrusive, or painful, the device had the long-lasting power to efface or distort his 'spirit' or personality.


Preface: APropos of Vienna, 2011
Introduction: 'This Is the Spirit'
1 From the Civil War to the Great War: The Rise, Fall, and Resurgence of a Spiritual Paradigm
2 Redeeming Reconstruction: White Evolutionary Ascension and the Acquisition of Spirit in Carry On
3 Plumes Agonistes: Laurence Stallings's Ambivalent Relationship with the Great War Rehabilitative Program
4 Medieval Departures: Facial Prostheses in John Dos Passos's One Man's Initiation: 1917
5 A Return to the Face: Anna Coleman Ladd's Portrait Masks for Mutilated Soldiers
6 The Prosthetic Fantasies and Fallacies of Claude Wheeler: Outdoor Rehabilitation and the Limits of Self-Mechanization in One of Ours
Epilogue: Johnny Got His Gun at the Twilight of the Great War Prosthetic Program

About the author: 

Aaron Shaheen is the George C. Connor Professor of American Literature at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where he teaches courses in American modernism. His previous book, Androgynous Democracy: Modern American Literature and the Dual-Sexed Body Politic, was published in 2010. He has published articles in PLMA, Modernism/modernity, Modern Fictions Studies, and a number of other journals.

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