School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

The First World War

The First World War

Drawing on existing strengths in creative writing, cultures of childhood, and outreach and engagement, the School is engaged in a series of projects and events to mark the centenary of the First World War.

Newcastle University is a partner organisation of the AHRC/HLF-funded First World War Engagement Centre 'Living Legacies 1914-18: From past conflict to shared future' led by Queens University Belfast.

Writing the First World War

Launching the 2014 Insights Public lecture series, and coinciding with the Hatton Gallery exhibition 'Screaming Steel: Art, War and Trauma 1914-1918', Pat Barker, in conversation with Anne Whitehead (7 October 2014) offered a chance to reflect on the First World War and its legacies a century on.

In conjunction with the exhibition 'Screaming Steel: Art, War and Trauma 1914-1918', NCLA plan to commission new poems to accompany the exhibits, which will then be published in a booklet; to run a series of writing workshops in the gallery for schools and the public, using the pictures on display as inspiration; and to hold a reading as part of the NCLA programme of events on literatures of more recent conflicts, that demonstrate the lasting legacy of the First World War poets.

Tracey Gillman has received funding from the Newcastle Institute for Creative Arts Practice (NICAP) for a series of community events related to the history of Tyneside in the First World War (October 2014). The Benwell Community Day at Benwell Library will focus on women munition workers in Tyneside, and Tracey will also perform a related new piece of creative writing at Benwell Library, the Live Theatre, and in Culture Lab.

Anne Whitehead received funding from the Catherine Cookson Foundation to develop with Marie Stern-Peltz a reading guide to fictions of the First World War, which will also form the basis of a number of shared reading events with local communities. 

Whitehead will also be publishing a chapter on Pat Barker's Toby's Room and Louisa Young's My Dear, I Wanted to Tell You in The Recovery of Beauty (Palgrave, 2015), edited by Jane Macnaughton and Corinne Saunders of Durham University.

The NCLA are developing a show with clown theatre company Miscreations, who have been given access to a local family's First World War archive. Set in a trench, this new touring silent one-man show will be called Entrenched.

The First World War and childhood

Stacy Gillis led the Leverhulme International Network project 'Approaching War: Childhood, Culture and the First World War'. Emerging from this project, the following activities will take place around the First World War and childhood:

  • a two-volume edited collection edited by Lissa Paul, Rosemary Johnston and Emma Short on Childhood, Culture and the First World War (Palgrave, forthcoming)
  • a special issue of First World War Studies, edited by Stacy Gillis and Emma Short, on nationhood, the child and the First World War, including an article by Gillis on L. M. Montgomery, and an article by Short on First World War children's adventure fiction
  • a digital resource, featuring a critical bibliography, a database of children's literature on the First World War and a wide selection of images, as well as the materials from the three project conferences

Outreach and community engagement

While outreach runs through each of the strands above, a number of activities have community engagement as a more explicit focus.

Affective Archives is a project led by Katie Cooper and funded through the AHRC's Collaborative Skills Development Award. The project asks participants to work with sixth formers from local schools to produce a film about their responses to documents written be local people who served in or lived through World War I. The project seeks to understand the intersections of memory, identity and feeling that emerge in any archival encounter. The films will be shown at the Tyneside Cinema.

The NCLA will be holding writing workshops with military veterans in the region and beyond, to produce creative non-fiction that enables reflection on involvement in military combat and certain kinds of recuperation and reconciliation.

Stacy Gillis, Emma Short, Marie Stern-Peltz and Anne Whitehead will be contributing to a Sixth Form Conference on the Literature and History of the First World War, organised by the Robinson Library, Newcastle University (September 2014). The event marks the launch of the new English Literature and History undergraduate degree at Newcastle University.

Developed out of the 'Past in the Present' theme of the Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal, a project will be developed that examines the ways in which, historically, the First World War has acted as a focus for social cohesion and relating this to the role of the centenary events in bringing individuals and communities together. The project's focus, in other words, will be on the social legacy of the past in and for the present.

PhD projects

Tracy Gillman, 'The Disappearance of Spoons', is a creative and critical evaluation of working-class women's social, political and emotional experiences of Tyneside post World War I. The creative component is set on 10 November 1919. Supervisors: Sean O'Brien and Helen Freshwater.

Marie Stern-Peltz, 'Moving Past the Myth: Coming of Age and the First World War in Contemporary Fiction After 1989'. Supervisors: James Procter and Anne Whitehead.

Robert Thompson, 'The Frontier and the Front: World War I Literature, American Manhood and 1920s Literary Culture'. Supervisors: James Annesley and Abbie Garrington.