Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



In this dissertation, I argue that by looking at the lasting impact of Victorian war literature on a variety of modern media, one can see that an increased cultural awareness of trauma has led to less humane depictions of the traumatized. The multitude of Sherlock Holmes adaptations produced and set in various time periods and covering assorted wars serves as a strong example in my first chapter of how a Victorian-produced text can have a lingering impact, and the veteran Watson serves as a strong tool for adaptors to use when commenting on the shifting nature of war and the subsequent trauma. In my second chapter I discuss Sylvia’s Lovers and Miss Saigon, which were both produced without a modern understanding of PTSD, but their portraits of the lingering impact of war on romantic triangles demonstrate the changing perception towards trauma from a national concern to a personal one. The nostalgia-tinged King Arthur of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King and the fantastical Iron Man of the Marvel Cinematic Universe serve as the basis for my third chapter as both seek to supplement their strength of force and character through their tools (most notably Excalibur and the arc reactor heart), but an over-reliance on these tools to maintain martial strength results in the mechanical completely draining the human. My final chapter analyzes Lady Audley’s Secret and the Hunger Games series and how both utilize the tropes of Gothic literature (and their audience’s familiarity with such tropes) as a means to help their audiences empathize with traumatized soldiers. Together, these chapters work to show how seemingly small changes to these reverberating ideas emulate the large changes in cultural perceptions of war and trauma and how this view of trauma as a personal issue has led to the dehumanization of soldiers, even the ones recognized as the greatest heroes. In the end, I advocate for empathy as a narrative tool through which some of this dehumanization may be lessened.



Committee Chair

Weltman, Sharon