"I have never felt more utterly yours”: Presence, Intimacy, and Long-Distance Marriages in the First World War

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The unique anxieties experienced by married couples remain under-examined aspects of both the First World War and the early twentieth century. Drawing on the writings of four upper-middle class couples, this article reveals the complex ways in which couples sought to maintain intimacy across transnational time and space during the First World War. By doing so, it argues that elements of 'modern' marriage were clearly present in these relationships. Wartime separation gave couples the space to develop new forms of intimacy and affection. A range of creative, often abstract, alternatives were developed to affect a sense of presence, enabling spouses to know, embody, and imagine one another. While couples frequently desired and imagined physical reunion, its fleeting nature during war was emotionally wearing and often undermined intimacy and togetherness in immediate and long-lasting ways. By exploring the subjective experiences of these couples, the articles challenges our tendency to periodise marriage into distinct categories such as patriarchal or companionate, and also invites us to reframe our understanding of the spatial dimensions of separation and intimacy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-701
JournalJOURNAL OF BRITISH STUDIES
Volume61
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 6 May 2022

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