School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Stephanie Butler

Stephanie Butler

Doctoral Student in Twentieth Century British Literature



  • Dr Stacy Gillis
  • Dr Anne Whitehead


Trauma, War and Domesticity in British Women's Correspondence During the Second World War

My doctoral thesis investigates letters exchanged by British women in the U.K. during the Second World War, with female friends and relatives in other regions of the U.K., and in Canada and the USA, regarding their fears about home loss and death. I centralize the dangers some women experienced within their houses. My project, thus, centralizes women's preoccupations with housing and homes within letters to their female correspondents. My project is driven by the following research questions: How do homes function as extensions of women's epistolary identities by serving as indicators of physical and mental states? How do women use letter-writing to convey their wartime needs to their correspondents? And, how do women intervene, or respond supportively, when confronted with the suffering of other women? I investigate how women's letters convey their war-related psychological needs to their correspondents, and how women use these epistolary networks to provide support. In the Introduction I establish the theoretical foundation by centralizing the connections between peer-support as auto/biography, letter-writing as an auto/biographical genre, autobiographical illness narratives, resilience, and trauma. In Chapter One, I address the relationship between women's perceived well-being and their homes by focusing on wartime housing safety precautions. The importance of social support for women's resilience following home loss is the focus of Chapter Two. The final chapter examines failures of resilience in response to home loss, comparing two case studies of women who, in their letters, expressed suicidal ideation in response to mental stress exacerbated by the conditions of war.

Research Interests

Auto/Biography Studies, Life-Writing Studies, Cultural Studies, Disability Studies, Critical Disability Studies, Medical Humanities, Women's Writing, Women's History, Genre Theory, Trauma Theory, Resilience, Mad(ness) Studies, Human Rights, Phenomenology, Mental Health and Wellness, Peer Support, Feminist Theory, Critical Race Theory, War Studies, the Second World War, Women and War, Pacifism during the Second World War, Second World War Anti-Massacre Bombing Campaigns, Political Letter-writing, Hannah Arendt, Virginia Woolf, and Vera Brittain.

Research Activities


  • Gender Research Group
  • The International Auto/Biography Studies Association
  • The Modern Language Association


  • McMaster University:
    1. Resources Teaching Assistant for C106 British Literature Survey Course taught by Dr. Anne Savage, 2014
    2. Teaching Assistant for C106 British Literature Survey Course taught by Drs. Anne Savage and Peter Walmsley, 2013-2014
  • University of Waterloo:
    1. Teaching Assistant for ENGL 109 Academic Writing (Online) taught by Dr. Andrew Stubbs, 2013
    2. Teaching Assistant for ENGL 200A British Literature Survey Course taught by Dr. Sarah Tolmie, 2012
  • Wilfrid Laurier University:
    1. Teaching Assistant for ENGL 119C Reading Fiction taught by Dr. Cindy McMann, 2011
    2. Teaching Assistant for ENGL245 British Literature Survey Course taught by Dr. Edwin Jewinski, 2010


Peer reviewed journal articles:

  1. 'The Circulation of Grief in English Women's WWII Correspondence,' Life Writing as Empathy Spec. issue of Concentric: Literary and Cultural Studies 42.2 (2016). Forthcoming.
  2. 'Virtual Selves, Virtual Communities: Self-Narration and Social Relations in Multi-User Virtual Environments,' a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 31.2 (2016): 373-98.
  3. 'Virtual Space: Creating a Place for Social Support in Second Life,' Space and Culture 18.2 (2015): 183-97.
  4. 'The Necessity of Control for Computer and Internet Users with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,' Information, Communication, and Society 16.7 (2013): 1042-1060.
  5. 'Second Life Avatars as Extensions of Social and Physical Bodies in People with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,' Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 27.6 (2013): 837-849.
  6. 'Disability and Communication: A Consideration of Cross-Disability Communication and Technology,' Disability Studies Quarterly 32.4 (2012).


  1. '"Fashioning Selves Online": A Review of Anna Poletti and Julie Rak, eds. Identity Technologies: Constructing the Self Online. Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 2014. Print.' Lifewriting Annual: Biographical and Autobiographical Studies 5 (2016). Forthcoming.

Research Reports:

  1. 'Indigenous Medicine Empowering Women: Aboriginal Midwifery Centres in Ontario, Canada: A Report Prepared for the Saratoga Foundation for Women Worldwide, Incorporated,' Saratoga Foundation for Women Worldwide, Incorporated, December 17, 2015. (It will be available online in 2016.)

Invited Weblog Posts:

  1. 'Resilience and Wellbeing: Domesticity and Trauma in English Women's Second World War Epistolary Correspondence,' Newcastle Institute for Social Renewal Weblog, Newcastle University, January 25, 2016. Web.
  2. 'No More Loony-Bin Trips: Madness and Human Rights within Universities.' Conversations in Academia, McMaster University, July 12, 2015. Web.

Peer-Reviewer Roles:

  1. Regular peer-reviewer for Disability Studies Quarterly, 2015 - present.
  2. Peer-reviewed an article for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in May, 2015.



  1. '"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly": Locked-in Syndrome and the (Un)Ethics of Narrative as Personhood," presented for the special session panel "Out of Narrative Bounds,' at the Modern Language Association Annual Conference, Philadelphia, January 5-8, 2017. Forthcoming.
  2. 'Self-Representational Agency in English Women's WII Epistolary Correspondence,' paper presented at the Annual Summer Residential Conference for the Auto/Biography Studies Reading Group of the British Sociological Association, hosted by Wolfson College (Oxford), July 15-17, 2016. Forthcoming.
  3. 'Virginia Woolf and the Rethinking of Mad (Pride) Histories,' paper presented at the Virginia Woolf and Cultural Heritage Conference hosted by Trinity Leeds University, Leeds, June 16-19, 2016.
  4. 'War, Trauma, and Gender in Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway,' Book Club Lecture for the Newcastle University's Gender Studies Research Group at the Newcastle City Library, March 2, 2016.
  5. 'War, Domesticity and Trauma in British Women's WWII Epistolary Peer-Support,' Public Lecture for Newcastle University's Gender Studies Research Group lecture series at the Newcastle City Library, February 24, 2016.
  6. 'The Benefits of Women's Epistolary Peer-Support within WWII U.K.' INSIGHTS Public Lecture 'New Voices in Social Renewal,' Newcastle University, November 5, 2015. The lecture will be recorded and made freely available online via the INSIGHTS Public Lectures website and Newcastle University's iTunes page.
  7. 'Censorship and Women's Letters in WWII Britain' Vox Populi, McMaster University English and Cultural Studies Department Graduate Student Speaking Series, November 25, 2014
  8. '"Yes letters are censored": International Epistolary Correspondence and the Limits of Representation in Second World War Britain,' Representing Modern War(s): Fields of Action and Fields of Vision International Conference, hosted by the Research Group on Identities and Cultures, University of Le Havre, France, March 19-21st, 2014. All papers presented at the conference were published as a radio show with the University of Le Havre Radio Station.
  9. 'Multimodal Life Narration in Multi-User Virtual Environments,' International Auto/Biography Association Conference, University of Vienna, October 31-November 3, 2013.
  10. 'Poetic Multimodality: The Aural and Textual Navigation of Space in the Poetry of Marlene NourbeSe Philip,' American Comparative Literature Association Annual Conference, University of Toronto, 2013.
  11. '"I Dreaded to Turn into this Road": Domesticity and Traumatic Rupture in Letters Exchanged by British Women During the Second World War,' Northeast Modern Language Association Annual Conference, Tufts University, Boston, March 21-25th 2013.
  12. 'The Censorship of Contraceptive Information in Fin de Siècle Britain,' Canadian Association for the Study of Book Culture, Waterloo, 2012.
  13. 'Virtual Reality Systems and Applied Disability Studies: Second Life as a Therapeutic Platform for Individuals with Chronic Illnesses,' Canadian Disability Studies Association, Waterloo, 2012.
  14. 'Lesbian Orpheus: The Use of Female Characters in Women-Centred Psycho-Katabasis Films,' Film Studies Association of Canada, Waterloo, 2012
  15. 'The Appropriation of Female Images in Pop-Culture Representations of Orphic Descents,' Popular Culture Association/ American Culture Association Conference, Boston, 2012.
  16. 'Life after Genocide in Jasmila Zbanic's Grabavica,' International Conference on Memory, Mediation, and Remediation. Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, 2011.


  • Memory, Mediation, and Remediation Conference, Wilfrid Laurier University - Assistant to Drs. Eleanor Ty and Russel Kilbourn (organizers), April 2011.
  • Wilfrid Laurier University Research Talks! English and Film Studies Graduate Colloquium organizer, 2010-2011.


  1. Year Three Ph.D. Course Representative for the Student-Staff Committee for the School of English Literature, Language, and Linguistics, at Newcastle University (2015-2016)
  2. Starting in 2015 I have acted as an English Language and Content Editor for Dr. Carla Bocchetti at the French Institute for Research in Africa which is a French government academic research centre attached to the French Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
  3. In 2015 I was a Research Fellow for the Saratoga Foundation for Women Worldwide (a United Nations-Accredited NGO with Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN).
  4. Served on the McMaster University Graduate Student Association Board of Directors from July 29, 2014-January 1, 2015 (I was voted in as a board member representing humanities students).
  5. McMaster University GSA's Equity and Action (Student Advocacy) Committee from May, 2014 - June, 2015.
  6. Member of the McMaster University English and Cultural Studies Department Diversity and Equity Working Group from 2013-2014.
  7. Arts Representative for the Wilfrid Laurier University GSA's Board of Directors from September, 2010 - August, 2011.
  8. Chair of the Policy Committee for Wilfrid Laurier University's GSA from September, 2010 - August, 2011.
  9. Member of Wilfrid Laurier University's Senate Committee for Research and Publications from September, 2010 - June, 2011

Academic Background

  • MA in English and Film Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University
  • BA in English Literature at Laurentian University