College of Arts and Sciences
History | History of Gender | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Military History
Kramer, Courtney, "Emasculated Men: The Perception and Treatment of Shell-Shocked Soldiers During World War I" (2018). Senior Honors Theses. 797.
World War I differed from wars of the past in a variety of ways. Thus, it created a host of modern medical and psychological problems for soldiers, military leaders, and physicians to overcome such as shell shock. Since shell shock was a relatively new phenomenon in warfare, the medical and military communities were uncertain about how to interpret its appearance and decrease its occurrence in their armed forces. As a result, shell shock fell victim to several social constructs of the time. One of the main societal factors that fueled the negative stigmatization of shell-shocked soldiers during the war was militarized masculinity. Using a variety of primary sources including military recruitment posters, medical journals, and other military and medical records, this paper aims to contribute to the current historiographical literature on the period by focusing exclusively on how societal perceptions of masculinity ultimately influenced the American and British military’s attitudes towards shell-shocked soldiers and determined the types of treatments used by medical practitioners to relieve soldiers of their debilitating and “effeminate” symptoms.