The material front: an examination of nonhuman agential forces in First World War fiction

Allen, Maria (2022) The material front: an examination of nonhuman agential forces in First World War fiction. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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“The Material Front: An Examination of Nonhuman Agential Forces in First World War Fiction” reads ostensibly human-focused wartime texts for nonhuman experience. More specifically, it considers two Modernist novels, Richard Aldington’s Death of a Hero (1929) and Ernest Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms (1929), from a Material Ecocritical perspective. The duration, technological evolution, and extreme violence of World War I fractured long-established Western frameworks and had ecological consequences that were overlooked on the battlefields and, subsequently, have been ignored in contemporary scholarship. This thesis advocates for placing the focus on often underestimated nonhuman actors and experiences in fictional war retellings. The body chapters address Aldington’s and Hemingway’s respective approaches. Chapter 1, “The Hazards of Underestimating Nonhuman Power in Aldington’s Death of a Hero,” tracks the consequences of Capt. George Winterbourne’s dismissal of topographical, botanical, and zoological elements of the nonhuman in his passage from a rural British childhood to his suicide on the Western Front. Chapter 2, “Capitalizing on the Power of the Nonhuman in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms,” follows Lt. Frederic Henry’s journey from the Alpine Front to neutral Switzerland and examines the topographical, meteorological, and zoological elements he utilizes to aid in his escape. Drawing together the findings of the previous two chapters, and juxtaposing Death of a Hero and A Farewell to Arms explicitly, Chapter 3, “For the Acknowledgement of Nonhuman Agency,” concludes the thesis by reiterating the implications of ignoring the nonhuman. It also reasserts the potential benefits of entanglements between the human and nonhuman.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 15762
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 75-87)
Keywords: material ecocriticism, First World War, Ernest Hemingway, Richard Aldington, Modernism
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: September 2022
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Aldington, Richard, 1892-1962. Death of a hero; Hemingway, Ernest, 1899-1961. Farewell to arms; World War, 1914-1918; Ecocriticism; Ecology in literature; Materialism

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