The great divorce : love and marriage in Great War literature.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Letters


The resurgence of Great War literature in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, sparked by Paul Fussell, looks to re-examine the historical and cultural paradigm shifts that permeate in the literature during and after the war. The topic of this dissertation will look to a pool of human relationships relating to love and the institution of marriage across literary genres by a group of women writers--Rebecca West, Radclyffe Hall, Hilda Doolittle, Vera Brittain, and Virginia Woolf, with the Great War serving as the overarching enemy. Through their lenses, I will examine and probe how these women writers shape our historical ideas and conceptualizations about the war with their textual discourses. The power of the Great War's influence over cultural ideas and attitudes about love and marriage are evident in the patterns of textual discourse and historical data. The patterns emerge in the voices of these women writers and are transfixed by the power of war. Through these texts one will see, as Stephen Greenblatt points out, the "negotiation and exchange of social energy" (592) and the changing attitudes and beliefs toward Victorian ideas about love and marriage. Ultimately, this dissertation will explore the Great War's cataclysmic effect that points to the negative disruptions imposed on love and marriage through the eyes of these women writers and their characters.