Writers at War addresses the most immediate representations of the First World War in the prose of Ford Madox Ford, May Sinclair, Siegfried Sassoon and Mary Borden; it interrogates the various ways in which these writers contended with conveying their war experience from the temporal and spatial proximity of the warzone and investigates the multifarious impact of the war on the (re)development of their aesthetics. It also interrogates to what extent these texts aligned with or challenged existing social, cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic norms.

While this book is concerned with literary technique, the rich scholarship on questions of gender, trauma, and cultural studies on WWI literature serves as a foundation. This book does not oppose these perspectives but offers a complementary approach based on close critical reading. The distinctiveness of this study stems from its focus on the question of representation and form and on the specific role of the war in the four authors’ literary careers. This is the first scholarly work concerned exclusively with theorising writing produced from the immediacy of the war.

This book is intended for academics, researchers, PhD candidates, postgraduates and anyone interested in war literature.


1 Ford Madox Ford’s Unrelatable Narrative of War


The elusive ‘Muse of War’

Writing as ethical imperative

From ethical injunction to aesthetic reinvention

Conclusion: towards Parade’s End

2 ‘The Fantastic Dislocation of War’: May Sinclair’s Aporetic War Chronicle


A war journal?

‘The high comedy of disaster’: Sinclair’s carnivalesque narrative

From representational crisis to an alternative mimesis


3 Writing Oneself at War: Siegfried Sassoon’s War Diaries


The generic fluidity of Sassoon’s war diaries

Writing a myth of oneself

An instance of intensely layered writing: recounting the attack on Fontaine-lès-Croisilles


4 From the ‘Bleeding Edge’ of War: The Singular Voice of Mary Borden


Writing in defiance of the conventional nurse figure

A liminal geography of care

Writing alienation

Conclusion: modernism and mimesis