Alice Munro’s short story “Carried Away” and Kevin Kerr’s play Unity (1918) are among the relatively few twentieth-century Canadian depictions of the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, a devastating global pandemic that produced the same kind of public health measures and social upheaval as the recent coronavirus COVID-19. While Unity (1918) explores how caregiving responsibilities were thrust upon women because the nation’s medical resources were overwhelmed, “Carried Away” considers how the transmission of romantic passion can parallel both influenza’s contagion and the dissemination of subversive political ideas. Drawing on the work of literary scholars and medical historians, this essay aims to assess how Spanish flu has been used in Canadian fiction and drama. While it has been alleged that World War I’s “soldiers have been remembered while the sick have been forgotten” (Davis 61), Munro’s and Kerr’s portrayals suggest a more nuanced use of influenza history.
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