'Waiting for Danny. Love, emotion and the ordinary diary 1940-1945'
Dr Alison Twells, Sheffield Hallam University.
Research Seminar Series 2012/13.
This paper focuses on the wartime diaries of Norah Hodgkinson who, as a fifteen year old working-class scholarship girl, knitted socks for the war effort; and through the sailor who received them, came to meet and fall in love with a serviceman in the RAF, named Danny. During the war, Danny visited Norah’s family home on numerous occasions. They exchanged letters, gifts and photographs and talked of marriage. In 1943, Danny disappeared, and Norah’s diary records her anxiety and longing. When he finally returned in 1945, the outcome was not as she had expected. My concerns in this paper are two-fold.
Firstly, following Jennifer Sinor (2002), I explore the issue of how we read the telegraphic entries in the tiny windows of the ordinary, ‘unstoried’ and non-literary diary, with a particular focus on reading love, longing and waiting. Secondly, I explore the uneasy relationship between academic writing and the investigation of interior lives, to ask whether the history of emotion requires that the historical method is supplemented by other, more speculative and imaginative approaches.
Alison Twells is Principal Lecturer in History at Sheffield Hallam University and the author of a monograph and articles on empire and religion in C19th Britain. In 2009, she inherited a suitcase of diaries from her great aunt, and so developed an obsession with women’s lives, working-class scholarship girls, and diary-writing in C20th Britain. She has been studying for an MA Writing to help with this project and is interested in the relationship between history, fiction and memoir.
All welcome from inside and outside the University.