"Remembering and Forgetting: Some Photographs from A Small Corner of the Great War," #3, Tsingtao Blog Photo Series: Enigma of European Nurse, by Mark Facknitz
Similarly enigmatic is this photograph of a European nurse—she wears the Red Cross medallion at her collar—flanked by women on either side.At first glance, the image seems simply to record the fact of the presence of western women in the colonial drama of the early twentieth century. Who she is, why she is in China, and exactly when the picture was taken and by whom, are details that I cannot recuperate. This recalls the conundrum of women's history; we know they were present in equal measure to men, but their documentation is sparse by comparison. So, in the absence of contextualizing narrative, frustrated in our desire to know who was this young woman with the modest smile and the good posture, we risk missing some startling details if we accept that her anonymity makes her unreadable. But as text, this photograph is remarkably rich. All the women to her right and the first two to her left are Chinese.The four at the right of the photograph, her left, are Japanese.The Chinese women are younger than the Japanese, not as well dressed, and while the Chinese look at the camera, none of the Japanese do.In other words, a complex cultural and circumstantial dynamic is at work here.That much we can know.What put these thirteen people in the same place and the same time?
Mark Facknitz is Roop Distinguished Professor of English at James Madison University. The 1989 winner of the Virginia Prize for fiction, his creative work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, Story Quarterly, The Iowa Review, and other journals. His essays on Raymond Carver, Anthony Powell, Henry Green, Joseph Conrad, Michel Tournier, and others have appeared in Studies in Short Fiction, CEA Critic, The Journal of Modern Literature,Twentieth-Century Literature, The Journal of Narrative Technique, and other publications. In recent years he has divided his research interests between the Great War and Willa Cather. His essay "Kitsch, Commemoration, and Mourning in the Aftermath of the Great War" appears as Chapter 16 of Jonathan Vance's The Great War: From Memory to History (Wilfred Laurier UP, 2016). He has published on Ivor Gurney's shellshock in The Journal of the Ivor Gurney Society, on war cemeteries and the margins of memory in Bridges, on Luytens and Thiepval as paradigms of commemoration in Crossings, and on pre-1914 gardens as trope for the soldier's remembered self in a/b Autobiography Studies. His not purely academic interest in the Great War depends on a German grandfather, prisoner of war in Japan 1914-1919; an American grandfather, an engineer in the AEF; and a great uncle who died for Canada. He holds an MFA from the University of Iowa and a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico.