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Culture in CamouflageWar, Empire, and Modern British Literature$
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Patrick Deer

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199239887

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239887.001.0001

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The Empire of the Air

The Empire of the Air

British Air Power and the Second World War

(p.61) 2 The Empire of the Air
Culture in Camouflage

Patrick Deer (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Chapter 2 traces the literary response to the seductive futurist appeal and colonialist genealogy of air power in two World Wars. After the Great War, the “empire of the air” was celebrated as a last resort of martial heroism and the colonies provided laboratories for experiment. The interwar period saw the consolidating imperial gaze of air power and mechanized war turned on the civilian home front as both apocalyptic nightmare and escapist fantasy. This chapter explores T.E. Lawrence's haunting fantasies of air power as he dedicated mind and body to the RAF's role in policing the empire in the 1920s and 30s. It argues that for those who waged the war of space and movement, the mythology of armored masculinity and panoramic vision all too often resulted in blackout and bodily disintegration. It explores these conflicts of “airmindedness” in the work of Virginia Woolf, Rex Warner, George Orwell, Richard Hillary, and Sir Arthur “Bomber” Harris.

Keywords:   bombing, air power, airminded, imperialism, Royal Air Force, Bomber Command, Iraq, T.E. Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Rex Warner, George Orwell, Richard Hillary, Sir Arthur Harris

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