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‘Between-time stories’: waiting, war and the temporalities of care
  1. Laura Salisbury
  1. Department of English and Film, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ, UK
  1. Correspondence to Prof Laura Salisbury, Department of English and Film, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4QJ, UK; l.a.salisbury{at}


This article analyses how World War II shifted and contained embodied experiences of waiting in relation to broader ideas of lived time in modernity. The trench warfare of World War I has often been imagined as a limit experience of anxious waiting, but World War II produced compelling accounts of experiences of suspended time in civilian populations exposed to the threat and anticipation of ‘total war’. This article analyses representations of this suspended present drawn from Elizabeth Bowen and Virginia Woolf, alongside materials in the Mass Observation Archive, to develop an account of how exposure to a future shaped by the potential of annihilation from the air reshaped experiences of durational temporality and the timescapes of modernity in the London Blitz. It also explores the relationship between anxiety, waiting, and care by attending to psychoanalytic theories that developed in the wartime work of Wilfred Bion and Melanie Klein. Extending Freud’s account of anxiety as producing ‘yet time’, this article describes how and why both literary and psychoanalytic texts came to understand waiting and thinking with others as creating the conditions for taking care of the future.

  • literature and medicine
  • psychoanalysis
  • psychiatry
  • medical humanities

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  • Contributors LS is the sole author of this research.

  • Funding The research in this paper was funded by the Wellcome Trust Collaborative Award ‘Waiting Times’. Grant number 205400/A/16/Z.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, conduct, reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data sharing not applicable as no datasets generated and/or analysed for this study. Not applicable.

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