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Waking Up to History: John Dos Passos, the Cut-up, and WWI by M.C. Armstrong

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Waking Up to History: John Dos Passos, the Cut-up, and World War I

By M.C. Armstrong

 

When M.C. Armstrong traveled to Iraq as a war reporter, he took with him the work of WWI volunteer ambulance driver and American novelist, John Dos Passos. Like Dos Passos did in 1919, Armstrong came back and began to assert his own theory of war writing based on lessons learned. In this post, Armstrong analyzes language as a weapon in war through the ways Dos Passos criticizes journalism using fiction. Read Waking Up to History: John Dos Passos, the Cut-up, and World War I, which discusses the war propaganda machine and Dos Passos' signature "cut up" technique at WWrite this week!

 

ArmstrongUSADPDesign for U.S.A. Trilogy cover by David Crunelle. Image source: doedemee.be 

Ten years before traveling to Iraq as a war reporter, I took an undergraduate class on World War I and the Modernists at James Madison University. At the time (1999), I was an acolyte of the Beats, a history major who suddenly believed his time would be better spent as an English major exploring the virtues of spontaneous prose and the open road. But my professor, Mark Facknitz, saved my soul. If I could not see the dialectic between English and history prior to this course, I certainly recognized it afterward. Facknitz wore a suit and tie to class every day. He was famously sadistic in his demands of his students and would sometimes erupt in outrage when you could not keep up with the reading. And no author seemed more worthy of his passionate advocacy than John Dos Passos.

Read more: Waking Up to History: John Dos Passos, the Cut-up, and WWI by M.C. Armstrong

The Debt of WWII Resistance Fighters to WWI Veterans, Part 4. French-Jewish Intellectual Marc Bloch - A History Lesson

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The Debt of WWII Resistance Fighters to WWI Veterans, Part 4. Marc Bloch - A History Lesson

By Jennifer Orth-Veillon

 

On June 16, 1944, ten days after the Americans landed in Normandy on D-Day, the Gestapo massacred 29 French Resisters Among them was Marc Bloch, one of the world's most important historians. This was not the first time Bloch, a Jew from Alsace and Professor at the Sorbonne, had taken up arms against the Germans. In this post, WWrite Curator, Jennifer Orth-Veillon, discusses Bloch's incredible trajectory from Legion of Honor WWI leader to WWII French Resistance hero. Read about Bloch and the ways in which WWI shaped his pathbreaking approach to history at WWrite this week!

 

MarcBloch1Marc Bloch. Image credit: EHESS.fr

On June 16, 1944, ten days after the Americans landed in Normandy on D-Day, the Gestapo massacred 29 French Resisters who had been interned in Lyon’s Montluc Nazi Prison. Among them was Marc Bloch, one of France’s most important historians. Legend says that he cried “Vive la France!” (Long live France!) as he fell. This was not the first time Bloch, a Jew from Alsace and Professor at the Sorbonne, had taken up arms against the Germans.

Read more: The Debt of WWII Resistance Fighters to WWI Veterans, Part 4. French-Jewish Intellectual Marc...

The Red and the Gray

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The Red and the Gray - Ernst Jünger in the Great War

By Elsa Minisini

In 1914, Ernst Jünger entered the war with weapons and notebooks. He came out of WWI alive with his seminal novel, one of the only to be written on the front lines, Storm of Steel.  French director François Lagarde spent 20 years producing, The Red and the Gray, a documentary film combining Jünger’s important text and thousands of images captured by amateur German soldier-photographers on the front. For this post, Elsa Minisini, the co-producer of the film, discusses Lagarde’s journey, one she helped him finish when he passed away before the film was complete. Read about this incredible project and the powerful story behind it at WWrite this week!

MINSINI1Poster for film, The Red and the Gray, Ernst Junger in the Great War

 

"Photographic technique is a way of stabilizing an image so that it takes on the value of a document. The World War was the first major event to be recorded in this way, and, since, there has been no important event not grasped by the artificial eye."

--Ernst Jünger, “On Pain,” 1934

 

*Like cinema, psychoanalysis, X-rays, and the diesel engine, Ernst Jünger was born in 1895. On December 31, 1914, he entered the war with weapons, books and notebooks. In his early 20s, he already had decided to confront the war as a writer and a soldier. He was granted the incredible destiny of coming out alive from this turmoil and he did so with 15 notebooks that contained his important novel, Storm of Steel. Unlike many WWI novels written years after the conflict’s end, Jünger wrote on the front lines.

Read more: The Red and the Gray

All the Way Home by Jane Clarke

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All the Way Home

By Jane Clarke

 

The Irish experience of the First World War has been largely overlooked and even denied until relatively recently; now we know that 210,000 Irish soldiers fought and up to 40,000 died. When the Mary Evans Picture Library in London invited poet, Jane Clarke, the winner of the 2016 Hennessy Literary Award for Emerging Poetry, to write a sequence of poems in response to a British First World War family archive, she accepted the challenge: how to find fresh ways of writing about the First World War. This week at WWrite, read the post, "All the Way Home," Clarke's account of imagining the forgotten experience of Ireland through an account of a WWI British soldier.

 

Against barbarity, poetry can resist only by cultivating an attachment to human fragility, like a blade of grass growing on a wall as armies march by.
---Mahmoud Darwish (1942-2008)

                                                                                                                                                                                

 JClarkeCover Image

 

*When the Mary Evans Picture Library in London invited me to write a sequence of poems in response to a First World War family archive, I was initially hesitant. While the photographs and letters were immediately evocative, I was all too aware that poems come of their own volition. I didn’t know if I would find the emotional resonance needed to spark not just one poem but a series. In fact what was most difficult was finding fresh ways of writing about the First World War.

Read more: All the Way Home by Jane Clarke

The Weariness of the Thing - "The Boys Who Live in the Ground"

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The Weariness of the Thing - "The Boys Who Live in the Ground"

By Connie Ruzich

Of the American aviators who flew over enemy lines in the war, only fifteen percent were left after the signing of the armistice.  Donald S. White, one of these few survivors, served as a pilot on the Western Front with the 20th Air Squadron. He was cited for “exceptional devotion to duty” as a bombing aviator as “he had served in a day-bombing squadron in every raid since the squadron had been called into active work during the severe fighting in the Argonne.” For this week’s post, Connie Ruzich from Behind Their Lines shares her rare discovery exclusively with WWrite: White’s poem about his service, a poem that seeks to speak “for thousands of his fellows.” Read “The Boys Who Live in the Ground” followed by Ruzich’s analysis this week!*

 RUZ4BowdoinDonald S. White in the Bowdoin Bugle, 1916. Image credit: Connie Ruzich

Songs from the Trenches: The Soul of the A.E.F. was published in Paris in April of 1918 when masses of American troops were beginning to arrive in France and prepare for battle.  The anthology was a collection of poems chosen from the thousands submitted to the New York Herald’s Literary Competition and dedicated to the memory of Alan Seeger, “The First American Soldier Poet who gave his life in France.”  The foreword of the book states that the poems were “a message from the American soldiers abroad to the home folks.... Each writer speaks for thousands of his fellows.”  

Read more: The Weariness of the Thing - "The Boys Who Live in the Ground"

History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

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History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

By David James

DjamesBTAT

*When thinking about the First World War, I am reminded of a quote by Jorge Luis Borges about the 1982 Falklands War, “It is a fight between two bald men over a comb.” In a similar way, we could say that WWI was a fight between a bunch of spoiled children over who got to use the playroom. Though they all had their own toys, sharing and cooperation were unlearned traits. There is something profoundly important to remember about this tragedy, though sometimes the easiest way to deal with tragedy, if not by outrage, stoicism, or escapism, involves a disarming sense of humor and irreverence. I will bring up these four issues in this post by focusing on Robert Graves’ Goodbye to All Thathis memoirs of early life in England, his participation in the trenches of WWI, and his post-war experiences.

Read more: History Between Humor and Tragedy: Musings on Robert Graves' Memoir, Goodbye to All That

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