Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture

Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture

Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture

Visions of War: World War II in Popular Literature and Culture

Synopsis

"World War II was, at least for Americans, a "good war." It was a war that was, seemingly, worth fighting. Even as the war was underway, a myriad of both fictional and non-fictional books began to appear examining one or another of the many parts of the conflict; the overwhelming flood has never stopped. Visions of War examines some of the best literature and popular culture that has, through the years, dealt with the war and the men and women whose lives were affected by it. Though there were a number of essays included here that look closely at the physical side of war as it was fought by men on both sides of the lines, this volume is in no way a work that looks exclusively at male-dominated scenes of battle. Many of the separate studies deal with women; several are about children; all concern themselves with the ways that the war changed persons' lives, whether on the war front or at home. A number of the eighteen essays included in this volume focus on themes dealing with the United States, but there are works about Great Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Poland, Russia, and the Japanese as well. Though unique and capable of standing alone, the essays are also clearly connected. Each, in its own way, seeks to challenge its readers to rethink his or her often long-held views about World War II and to see that era in a new light. "War," as the Union Army's William Tecumsah Sherman said, more than a hundred years ago, "is all hell." Visions of War seeks to examine the many ways that such hell forever changed the persons who lived through its days of triumph and sorrow." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Wars are fought to keep the peace; thus, war begins in a state of illogical yet somehow irrefutable irony. War texts are full of images which symbolize this inherent quality of conflict: death versus life, body parts versus the whole person, stolen youth versus forced maturity, entry into the world of war versus re-entry into the "civilized" world, fragmented texts versus continuous narratives. These ironies are the literary elements which all war texts have in common. They are linked by the historical reassurance of all war writings that what seems to be right in the world will be turned upside-down by the war experience.

Visions of War examines this topsy-turveydom as it is revealed in literature and popular culture that focuses on the era of the Second World War. This is not, however, a book that looks solely at the obvious male-dominated aspects of combat in the front lines. Though several of the essayists featured here do, indeed, look at that part of the war years as it has been captured on the written page and in film, the majority concern themselves with the ways that the war changed persons' lives, whether on the war fronts or the home fronts between 1939 and 1945. Featured in the eighteen original essays are accounts of fiction and non-fictional literature, poetry, music, cinematic drama and artistic imagery. Americans are the focus of nine of the essays, but there are also chapters dealing with Canada, Britain, France, Nazi Germany, Poland and the U.S.S.R.

As the years have passed since the end of the war, the world has never been free of conflict somewhere on the globe. In the United States, young American men and women have been involved in two bloody Asian conflagrations and in more than our share of "brush-fire" wars as well. But for all the bravery, the trauma, the bloodshed, it is World War II that, by its sheer magnitude, continues to fascinate us above all other foreign wars. The authors whose works have been collected in Visions of War provide a series of unique but clearly connected essays on the war years. In their perceptive examinations, they challenge us all to rethink our long-held views about World War II and the many individuals—men, women and children—whose lives were forever changed.

Part One focuses "On the War Fronts" and the massive amount of literature that has been produced over the last fifty years to commemorate the front lines of battle, the spies behind those lines and the men and women directly affected by the fighting. In the first essay, "Snapshots in the Book of War," David K. Vaughan critically examines Rhymes of a Pfc, a collection of poems which Paul Fussell suggests may make its author, Lincoln Kirstein, "the greatest poet of the Second World War." These 95 poems are "often comic, even incongruous" because "they exactly catch the rugged flavor of the wartime experience from the viewpoint of the soldier." Although few of the poems describe combat directly, the collection, as a whole, does "provide an accurate and unified vision of the . . .

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