Hamline News

April 27, 2012

Queer as Rebellion: A Study in First World War Homoeroticism and Homosexuality

Sarah Van Dusseldorp, Advisor: David Hudson

The literature documenting the First World War is fraught with references to touch, intimacy and romantic feelings between men, both in and out of the trenches. While male intimacy appearing in World War I poetry has been heavily critiqued, critics have paid less attention to the longer works of literature documenting the war and their representation of homoeroticism. This paper explores that gap and illustrates how British soldiers were fulfilling a gentlemanly duty by enlisting in the service; however, many rebelled against that duty by engaging in emotional and physical homoerotic acts. Similar to British boarding schools, the trenches were all-male environments and the exclusion of the female sex did not eliminate gender roles, romance, or sexual relations. Many British soldiers engaged in this behavior regardless of identified sexual orientation. This essay specifically explores the homoeroticism depicted in Robert Graves’s Good-bye to All That and Siegfried Sassoon’s The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston as well as responds to claims made by critics Santanu Das and Paul Fussell.