The Veteran as Author

Is there a form of therapy found in retelling stories? Who has the legitimacy to tell such stories? Do different patterns emerge in writing from different countries and in response to different wars?

In this third Seminar in the Sadler Series ‘The War Veteran in Culture and Society’ we explore the authoring of military and post-military experience through the writing of memoirs and fictional accounts by veterans.

We will hear from Andy Owen, who served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army, and has since written novels and a sympathetic account of why soldiers ‘run away’ from war. Our second presentation is from Neil Jenkings (Newcastle University), co-author of Bringing War to Book: Writing and Producing the Military Memoir (Palgrave, 2018) with Rachel Woodward, based on author interviews and reading over 250 military memoirs. More detailed abstracts below.

This seminar will be chaired by Hamilton Carroll, whose research interests include the cultural politics of masculinity in US novels written by veterans. Both speakers will give a short presentation with lots of time for discussion.

Tea/coffee and biscuits provided.

Titles and abstracts from our speakers:

Andy Owen: Why Write About War?

Veteran author Andy Owen will explore the reasons why veterans are drawn to writing about the wars they have experienced, both through fiction and autobiography, and, whether writing about conflict should be limited to only those that have "been there".

Andy Owen served in the Intelligence Corps of the British Army. He completed operational tours in Northern Ireland (2003), Iraq (2004 and 2005) and on intelligence duties in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2007.

Dr K. Neil Jenkings (Newcastle University): Accounting for Themselves: Combat Veteran Authors ‘Bringing War to Book’

In ‘Bringing War to Book: Writing and producing the Military Memoir’ (2018) Rachel Woodward and I undertook what can be described as a sociology of authorship of military memoirs and memoirists. We collected and read over 250 military memoirs published from 1980 onwards. However, at the core of the book are the 21 in-depth interviews with military memoirists. In this workshop I will discuss how these informed the analysis in ‘Bringing War to Book’ and other publications.

The impetus for the original study on which ‘Bringing War to Book’ was based was our use of memoirs when researching news media representations of military personnel and comparing them with ex-service personnel’s own representational practices. Simply put, our research question was: ‘What was the veracity of the memoirs we, and other social scientists, use as data?’.

Our analysis, in collaboration with the authors revolved around questions such as: what is a military memoir (for authors)? What do military memoirs do? How are they written? For whom? What is included and excluded, and why? What are the collaborative practices involved in writing and production? What are the commercial considerations? These and other analytic issues will be opened up for debate at the workshop.

Any email inquiries about this event should be directed to Katy Parry

Convenors of this Series are:
Katy Parry (Media and Communication); Hamilton Carroll (English); Jessica Meyer (History)