‘Write Your Life!’: British Prisoners of War in the Korean War (1950–1953) and Enforced Life Narratives

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Abstract

This article explores the range of life writing produced by British prisoners of war
during the Korean War (1950–3). By examining enforced diary-keeping, public
confessions and self-criticism within prisoner of war camps ran by the Chinese
People’s Volunteers (CPV), this article uses the example of British servicemen to
demonstrate how British prisoners of war were constantly called upon to
reflexively consider their role as servicemen and their reasons for being in
Korea. Such self-reflection was even called for upon their return home when
prisoners were interrogated by British authorities. Through examining the
context and form of these under-used life narratives, this article suggests that
the concept of ‘enforced narrative’ has a wide utility for theorists of life writing
and calls for a reappraisal of individual volition within autobiographical writing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-23
Number of pages21
JournalLife Writing
Volume12
Issue number1
Early online date20 Nov 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2015

Keywords

  • prisoner
  • diary
  • confession
  • psychoanalysis

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