Headshot of Graduate Katherine Ellis.

Graduate Fall 2021: Katherine Ellis

“We make the sick into men again:” Reconstructing the Masculinist Medical Model of Trauma in World War I France

Department of French and Francophone Studies & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Recent years have seen an increase in academic interest regarding the earliest efforts to articulate the notion of “trauma” within established medicine in World War I France. While much of the existing research on the subject foregrounds the organizational development of psychiatric hospitals and firsthand accounts of the patients who inhabited them, the question of what role masculinities played in the theorization of trauma itself remains unexplored but promising territory. In my dissertation, “‘We make the sick into men again:’ Reconstructing the Masculinist Medical Model of Trauma in World War I France,” I apply critical analysis of influential French medical publications from the period to explore the presence and influence of dominant masculinities in scientific discourse on trauma. In so doing, I systematically reconstruct the French medical model of trauma with an eye for each of its most fundamental components, principally la volonté (“willpower”), conceptualized as the keystone of wellness and French masculinity. As I demonstrate through my dissertation, research of this nature is critical to not only expanding our knowledge of the history of psychiatric theory but also, and perhaps still more pressingly, to better understanding enduring Western beliefs about what constitutes health and how we might scientifically define the notion of recovery.