The Cultural Memory of the 1918 Flu Pandemic

Most of us have read more about the 1918 flu pandemic in the past two months than we have in our entire lives. There are numerous theories why it has not been scrutinized more closely but that research will be for a future blog, because I found an interesting topic while I was researching. This blog will concentrate on some of the primary sources of this time period. There is a variety of sources from the National Archives that are fascinating to read. I recommend reading this article first because it sounds so contemporary. As you look at the Deadly Virus exhibit and view the masked letter carrier, read hospital reports and telegrams, it suddenly looks and feels like May 2020.

I found another interesting article about the sparse amount of research on the effects of the 1918 epidemic on American culture. Elizabeth Outka, a literary scholar, is interviewed on the lack of books and articles on the pandemic. “The pandemic ‘wasn’t forgotten’-it just went underground.” She goes on to state that the literature of the time period “captured” the feeling of loss and hopelessness. Outka is the author of Viral Modernism: The Influenza Pandemic and Interwar Literature. I checked Hoopla from the MVCC library website and signed in using my login information. I found an ebook that may help us understand the culture of post-1918 pandemic and see if there are any similarities to the current 2020 pandemic.

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