EVENT Jun 29
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The Cultural Veteran: Returning Soldiers in Art, Literature, and Media

Manchester, UK
Organization: Manchester Metropolitan University
Categories: British, Genre & Form, Popular Culture, 1865-1914, 20th & 21st Century, Medieval, Early Modern & Renaissance, Long 18th Century, Romantics, Victorian, 20th & 21st Century, Adventure & Travel Writing, Children's Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels, Drama, Narratology, Poetry, Cultural Studies, Film, TV, & Media, History
Event Date: 2020-06-29 to 2020-06-30 Abstract Due: 2020-02-01

The Cultural Veteran: Returning Soldiers in Art, Literature, and Media

The Returning Soldier Conference, 29-30 June 2020, Manchester Metropolitan University

Keynote Speaker: Prof Kate McLoughlin (Oxford University), author of Veteran Poetics: British Literature in the Age of Mass Warfare, 1790-2015 (2018)

The representation of returning soldiers and veterans in art and literature has a long tradition stretching back to the ancient world when Odysseus’ homeward journey was recounted in The Odyssey. It has been a popular theme in literature since, notably in the First World War novels by Rebecca West and Pat Barker, and in a slew of fictional works involving veteran crusaders, ex-servicemen turned investigators, and the psychologically damaged. Artists also chose images of homecoming to create idealised depictions of family homecoming, or portray the hardships of a long absence and journey home. Physical and mental injury, and their impact on those returning to civilian life, have been particularly useful as drivers of fictional narratives, as seen in more recent television series like BBC’s Bodyguard and 20th Century Fox’s Homeland.

Portrayals of veterans and homecoming soldiers makes them familiar figures for popular consumption, but it also raises questions about how and why we view them the way we do. Which aspects of the homecoming experience do creators choose to focus on in their writing, art, or media works? Is there an emphasis on portraying homecoming soldiers as damaged by their experiences? If so, in what way? What positive stories of the impact of military service are there? And how do these relate to the view of warfare in the time in which they were made? How are veterans of victorious wars portrayed, compared to those who lost?

Submission Process

We invite proposals for 20-minute papers from postgraduate, ECRs and established scholars from the fields of history, literature, the arts, media, music, or any other discipline. We also welcome the submission of poster presentations which will be displayed at the conference. Papers may consider any type of creative work which represents returning soldiers and veterans, from the ancient to the modern world, and cover such themes as:

·         The construction of veteran identities, either by veterans themselves or other commentators

·         Trauma theory and the returning soldier

·         Heroic or redemptive portrayals of homecoming

·         Masculinity and the portrayal of veterans

·         Returning soldiers and veterans in genre fiction, or foreign language works

·         Propaganda and the public construction of cultural memory

·         The homecoming of spectral soldiers and the return of the dead

·         Adaptation and the returning soldier


A title and 200-word abstract should be sent to Dr Kathryn Hurlock (K.Hurlock@mmu.ac.uk) and Dr Matt Foley (Matthew.Foley@mmu.ac.uk) by 1 February 2020. We hope to secure funding assistance to provide bursaries for PGR students, and publish a selection of papers from the conference.


Dr Kathryn Hurlock