Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts




English (MA)

First Advisor/Chairperson

Dr. Caroline Krzakowski


This project examines how the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic is discussed in memoirs, letters, and fiction. I focus on both British and Nigerian sources to compare how different areas of the world portray the cultural significance of this disease. In the first chapter, I analyze two unpublished archival texts: the letters of Dorothy Sutton (1918), a nurse during World War I and the memoir of Private H.J. Youngman (1969). Both sources, housed in the collections of the Imperial War Museum in London, describe the symptoms and scope of the influenza pandemic. The chapter also looks at Virginia Woolf’s novel, Mrs. Dalloway (1925), to demonstrate the long recovery from these twin catastrophes. Although Mrs. Dalloway marks the beginning of Woolf’s interest in writing about illness, the novel nonetheless considers the consequences of the war to be more important than those of the pandemic. Globally, the pandemic was responsible for an estimated 20 to 100 million deaths, which was greater than the death toll from the war. My second chapter explores the global significance of the influenza pandemic by focusing on Elechi Amadi’s, The Great Ponds (1969). This Nigerian novel, in contrast with Mrs. Dalloway represents the physical symptoms of influenza in detail, and does not overshadow depictions of the pandemic with depictions of war. Amadi considers the lasting effects of the pandemic, and the importance of oral storytelling as a means of cultural remembrance.

Access Type

Open Access