45th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

3-6 April 2014

Susquehanna University, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

World War I and World War II saw the large-scale entry of female nurses into the gendered hierarchy of the military. These nurses are now viewed as courageous, but at the time the public viewed nursing as an “unsuitable” and “suspect” profession for young, unmarried women because it involved “demeaning physical labor”; required mixing of sexes, races, and nationalities; and involved care for individuals suffering from “taboo illnesses” such as venereal disease (Monohan and Neidel-Greenlee 2003: 9-10).

All of these dynamics were amplified during wartime. In addition, war nurses were exposed to violence, personal danger, and death, and were also subject to sexual abuse by their own military servicemen. Hardly anyone asked war nurses what they had been through until the late twentieth century, official records of their service were not kept and some governments actively sought to conceal what they had been exposed to.

Nurses’ narratives and oral histories have received some attention in recent decades, though these studies have often emphasized nurses’ roles as caregivers and witnesses of soldiers’ trauma rather than focusing on the nurses’ own experiences and trauma. Kristen Burnett (2008) notes that scholars have largely failed to include nurses in their attempts to reclaim women’s history, a trend that is perhaps due to nursing’s apparent bolstering of gender stereotypes.

Through examinations of personal narratives, this panel seeks a broader understanding of nurses’ experiences during WWI and WWII, particularly those which push past gendered stereotypes of nurses as caregivers and passive witnesses to soldiers’ trauma.

This transnational panel will examine nurses’ representations of WWI and WII, and is specifically concerned with their experiences as they entered the gendered hierarchy of the military and encountered the violence and carnage of war. It seeks papers on autobiographical narratives, including letters, diaries, autobiography, memoir, and oral histories. International texts welcome; papers are to be presented in English. Please send 300-word abstracts and CV to Ravenel Richardson at [email protected]

The deadline is 30 September 2013.

Please include with your abstract:

  • Name and Affiliation
  • Email address
  • Postal address
  • Telephone number
  • A/V requirements, if any ($10 handling fee with registration)

The 2014 NeMLA convention continues the Association's tradition of sharing innovative scholarship in an engaging and generative location. This capitol city set on the Susquehanna River is known for its vibrant restaurant scene, historical sites, the National Civil War museum, and nearby Amish Country, antique shops and Hershey Park. NeMLA has arranged low hotel rates of $104-$124.

The 2014 event will include guest speakers, literary readings, professional events, and workshops.

A reading by George Saunders will open the Convention. His 2013 collection of short fiction, The Tenth of December, has been acclaimed by the New York Times as “the best book you’ll read this year.”

NeMLA’s Keynote Speaker will be David Staller, Producer and Director of Project Shaw. Mr. Staller presents monthly script-in-hand performances of Bernard Shaw’s plays at the Players Club in New York City.

Interested participants may submit abstracts to more than one NeMLA session; however, panelists can only present one paper (panel or seminar). Convention participants may present a paper at a panel and also present at a creative session or participate in a roundtable.

For more details, visit the NeMLA website

Margaret Ravenel Richardson, PhD
[email protected]
P.O. Box 106, White Hall, VA 22987

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