Texas Tech University

Jen Shelton

Associate Professor, Department of English, Texas Tech University 

"Translating the Great War: World War I in Contemporary Literature"

Pat Barker's novel Regeneration, set at Craiglockhart War Hospital in 1917 when two of the best-known Great War poets, Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, happened to be patients there, provides a gripping look at war and the cost of war, focusing especially on shell shock, what we now call PTSD. Sassoon's doctor was instrumental in testing out and introducing modern methods of treating the psychological injuries of war, and Barker uses his writings, as well as those of the poets and others active in the Great War, to craft a historical novel of great interest. Because the novel signals its borrowings from Great War-era texts, readers can easily follow the rabbit trails it suggests to uncover and explore the rich variety of materials that Barker used to create her account of treatment in a hospital for shell-shock patients. Barker's text translates the war for contemporary readers, helping us to approach period writings and inviting us into deeper understanding of the people whose lives were forever altered by the Great War.