World War I Revisited In Literature and Other Arts: Saying the Unspeakable (Panel)

German / Comparative Literature

Eckhard Kuhn-Osius (Hunter College, CUNY)

The session seeks to further discussion of aesthetic, psychological, and sociological aspects of the artistic aftermath of World War I in the framework of a widely-defined cultural studies approach. As the centennial of fighting in World War I goes into its third year and the United States is again trying to grapple with the traumatizing experience of war in the present day, it seems that it would be enlightening and useful to examine artistic works emanating from the first massively traumatizing war experience in greater depth, both to provide a deeper background for today’s experience and to see in greater detail how artists reacted to the traumatizing slaughter. According to all accounts, the war experience transcended everything that people had expected and thereby called into question all traditional images, justifications, depictions and rationalizations of war. This inability to square personal experiences with traditional and socially dominant schemata led to massive difficulties when soldiers were to be re-integrated into society after the War was over. Papers in this session would deal with the aesthetic challenges that the novel war experience brought about and how it was handled by various artists of countries engaged in the war. Other artistic media as well as later transformations of World War I literature into films, comics, or other works of art would also be of interest. Approaches could be interpretive, historical, sociological, genre-theoretical, comparative, psychological, or biographical. While German literature is especially salient for the present time in which wars generally are not won outright, the session welcomes scholars of other literatures and cultures.

Cultural Studies approach to the traumatizing experience of World War I, analysis of literary works or adaptations thereof (film, graphic literature) that deal with the Great War. Scholars from all cultures and social groups that were involved in the war are welcome.