Prof. Jane Fisher Focuses on WWI & Influenza Pandemic in New Book

October 12, 2012


BUFFALO, NEW YORKJane E. Fisher, PhD, focuses on World War I and the forgotten 1918 influenza pandemic in her new book Envisioning Disease, Gender and War: Women’s Narratives of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, arguing that modern forms of war and peace, health and illness, and masculinity and femininity were all being negotiated in the volatile period between 1914 and 1920.     

Fisher is an associate professor of English at Canisius College and director of the college’s Women’s Studies Program.  Envisioning Disease, Gender and War is her first book and the culmination of nine years of research and writing.  In it, Fisher draws upon the narratives, novels and essays of such well-known writers as Willa Cather, Katherine Anne Porter and Virginia Woolf to examine how women developed an appreciation of their own endurance, envisioning and accepting their transformed futures following the apocalyptic losses of men during World War I (1914-1918) and the 1918 influenza pandemic.

“The male characters inevitably die because they face double jeopardy – the war and the flu,” explains Fisher.  “The female characters who survive develop different visions of transformed futures.  These are not necessarily ideal futures but ones in which women recognize their lives are changing, that they are beginning to perform different roles.”

The loss of a generation of young men forced women into the workplace.  Suffrage was also passed during this time, with Western women being granted the right to vote.

“These women could have declared defeat or let history define who they would be,” says Fisher.  “They came out of both the war and the influenza pandemic into a vastly altered world where they attempted to find opportunities, unexpected ways in which they could contribute and be constructive.”

Envisioning Disease, Gender and War is one of the first books to be published about gender roles in relation to the 1918 influenza pandemic.  It is also one of very few books to explore the pandemic on an international level, including writers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Nigeria.                                               

Fisher’s scholarship and teaching interests include literary representations of illness and disease, as well as 19th and 20th century British literature, particularly literary modernism and women’s literature.  Her new book is the basis for Fisher’s course entitled Literature, Illness and Disease. 

Fisher earned her BA in English from Boston University, and her MA and PhD in English from Cornell University.  Her book, Envisioning Disease, Gender and War: Women’s Narratives of the 1918 Influenza Pandemic, was published by Palgrave Macmillan and is available at local bookstores, as well as and Barnes and 

For more information on Fisher’s book or her research on the 1918 influenza pandemic, World War I, and changing gender roles in the early 20th century, contact the Office of Public Relations at (716) 888-2790. 

One of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation, Canisius is the premier private university in Western New York.