“Becoming acquainted with all that pain”: nursing as activism in Naomi Mitchison’s science fiction

McFarlane, A. (2019) “Becoming acquainted with all that pain”: nursing as activism in Naomi Mitchison’s science fiction. Literature and Medicine, 37(2), pp. 278-297. (doi: 10.1353/lm.2019.0013) (PMID:31885025)

196489.pdf - Accepted Version



The Scottish writer Naomi Mitchison worked as a Voluntary Aid Detachment nurse during the First World War, serving on wards for several months before she left to nurse her wounded husband. Using previously unpublished archival material, this article argues that Mitchison’s experience as a nurse contributed to her career in crucial ways, by encouraging her to develop empathy towards others across barriers of class and nationality, and by drawing her towards fictions of estrangement (from historical novels to fantasy and science fiction). The paper argues that the trauma of the war encouraged the estrangement of Mitchison’s debut novel The Conquered, a historical novel, and that this trend in her writing continued as she turned to science fiction later in her career, questioning the extent to which social pressures such as inequality and the class system shape bodies, their health care, and their horizons of thought.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Mcfarlane, Dr Anna
Authors: McFarlane, A.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Journal Name:Literature and Medicine
Publisher:John Hopkins University Press
ISSN (Online):1080-6571
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2019 John Hopkins University Press
First Published:First published in Literature and Medicine 37(2): 278-297
Publisher Policy:Reproduced in accordance with the publisher copyright policy

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
172742Nursing, Reproduction and Writing: Naomi Mitchison's Science Fiction as Activism'Anna McFarlaneWellcome Trust (WELLCOTR)201346/Z/16/ZArts - English Literature