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Home from the wars: the Romantic revenant-veteran of the 1790s

By Simon John Parkes

Abstract

This thesis introduces the figure of the Romantic revenant-veteran to the discourse surrounding Romanticism and war, charting the development of this character type in relation to depictions of returning soldiers in the eighteenth century. The project begins with an exploration of the literary Broken Soldier, a traditional image of the war veteran that evolves into a revenant form as the Revolutionary War with France begins. This new and strange revenant figure is a ghostly borderer who, embodying the indescribable, challenges language itself within the struggle to articulate the realities of wartime anxiety.\ud In these terms, the study considers the artistic mediation of the effects of war returning to the home-front during a period of unprecedented global conflict, and demonstrates the deployment of spectral tropes that elucidate a range of anxieties present in British society during the 1790s. The accompanying image of the bereft woman found amid literary accounts of separation and death during this period extends the revenant’s reach. Thus, we see how a number of authors attempt to defamiliarise images of war presented to the public in the last decade of the century, bringing about a reconsideration of home-front war experience filtered through literature. Romantic revenant-veterans signify physical, emotional and socio-economic turmoil, highlighting the fates of surviving victims of war condemned to a post-bellum death-in-life. These spectral figures investigate the consequences of war at the level of the physical and political, the ethical and spiritual, as well as from psychological and economic viewpoints; these works show that the imaginative efficacy of language to mediate war is ruptured, leaving only unstable images of the uncertain limits of violence in a new era of ideological and potentially boundless warfare

Topics: PR
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:2785
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