fbpx
African American Soldiers 1 Riveters doughboys with mules pilots in dress uniforms African American Officers gas masks Mule Rearing The pilots

The WWrite Blog

More Gentile Than Grim: Letters Home from World War I, by David Chrisinger

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

More Gentile Than Grim: Letters Home from World War I
By David Chrisinger

At the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, I teach a seminar for student veterans on the history of American veterans coming home from war. In the fall of 2015, the students in my class analyzed hundreds of pages of letters that had been written by soldiers fighting on the Western Front during World War I who had grown up in the town where our university is located. As they read each letter, I asked them to highlight passages that struck a chord with them, that reminded them of their own experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan or elsewhere. What they found surprised them: the letter were more gentile than grim. I mean gentile in the non-religious sense, an inclusive sense, meaning belonging to the same group, which originates from the the Latin gentilis meaning ‘of a family or nation, of the same clan.’ The WWI soldiers were brothers, sisters, comrades.

ChrisingerPicture1

The student veterans in Chrisinger’s seminar for student veterans at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, October 2015

“You can bet I’ll never miss any more wars if I know they are in progress.”
They were surprised, though perhaps they shouldn’t have been, that most of the letters are those of young and confident American doughboys, not the conflicted old men many of my students think of when they try to picture a veteran of the First World War. One soldier wrote in March 1918 that he’s “perfectly satisfied, feels great, sleeps like a log, and wouldn’t come back until we win the war for anything.” Another wrote that “this sure is the life. Why the hell didn’t I get into the Mexican war? You can bet I’ll never miss any more wars if I know they are in progress.”

Read more: More Gentile Than Grim: Letters Home from World War I, by David Chrisinger

WWrite Weekend Update for June 11th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

The Great War Theatre Project, Contemporary Veterans Respond to WWI Letters with David Chrisinger, and PTSD Awareness Month


wierbe1
This Week's Post:  This week's post, "A Journey of Commemoration: The Great War Through the Lens of Art," comes from Susan Werbe, the executive producer of the The Great War Theatre Project: Messengers of Bitter Truth, performed in Boston, New York, and Letchworth (UK). Werbe discusses the process of weaving voice, dance, theatre, writings, and song cycles to examine the collective memory of war on the individual. She also talks about her latest project, Letters You Will Not Get, a libretto, using various genres of women's WWI writing, set to commissioned contemporary music. A wonderful showcase of an extraordinary, multidisciplinary project—not to miss! (photo above - a scene from The Great War Theatre Project)

Read more: WWrite Weekend Update for June 11th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

A Journey of Commemoration: The Great War through the Lens of Art, by Susan Werbe

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

A Journey of Commemoration: The Great War through the Lens of Art

WWITheaterProject

Scenes from The Great War Theater Project performances.

In late June 2013, I stood on the banks of the SambreOise Canal in northern France.    The scene before my eyes was peaceful and bucolic.  It could easily have been 1913 instead of 100 years later.  A lone fisherman plied the waters of the canal; an elderly woman, dressed in black walked her dog.  I had come to this peaceful spot to remember the British war poet Wilfred Owen.  André – my guide, a former Belgian military officer steeped in the history of The Great War—showed me the exact spot where Owen had been killed on November 4, 1918, one week before the Armistice was declared.

My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.

(Wilfred Owen)

 

Read more: A Journey of Commemoration: The Great War through the Lens of Art, by Susan Werbe

Beyond Friend or Foe. World War I American Immigrant Poetry: A Digital Humanities Project, by Lorie A. Vanchena

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Germans emigrate 1874

Beyond Friend or Foe. World War I American Immigrant Poetry: A Digital Humanities Project

Lorie A. Vanchena organizes the WWI American Immigrant Poetry project at the University of Kansas. It aims to create a single source for storing poems by American immigrant voices—for or against the war—to shed light on the historical, national, and ethnic contexts in which the poems were written and to demonstrate that this poetry can help us understand  the way WWI continues to shape our world today. In this post, she discusses some of her findings. (photo above -"From the Old to the New World," showing German emigrants boarding a steamer in Hamburg, to New York. (Harper's Weekly, New York) November 7, 1874)

Read more: Beyond Friend or Foe. World War I American Immigrant Poetry: A Digital Humanities Project, by...

WWrite Weekend Update for May 28th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Seamus Heaney and Edward Thomas for Memorial Day, Censored Works by WWI Nurses, and Next Week's Post on WWI American Immigrant Poetry

The Last WWrite Featured Post:  The last post featured another installment in the series about WWI censored written works. Jennifer Orth-Veillon, the WWrite blog curator, discussed two censored works by Army nurses: Ellen N. La Motte's The Backwash of War (book cover image, left) and Mary Borden's The Forbidden Zone. If you have a censored literary work in mind, please email Jennifer Orth-Veillon at jennifer.orth-veillon@worldwar1centennial.org.

BackwashWarLaMotteNext Week's Post:University of Kansas Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures Associate Immigrantwriter 327133598Professor, Lorie A. Vanchena, will discuss  WWI American Immigrant Poetry: A Digital Humanities Project, an impressive and original project about WWI American poetry. Poems written in response to World War I by immigrants in the United States constitute a broad range of commentary on the war. The poems exist primarily in print format and are widely dispersed throughout North America.  (Photo, above right: The writer during the moment of creative inspiration, Eugene Ivanov | Shutterstock).

 Don't miss this original post!

Read more: WWrite Weekend Update for May 28th: This Week's Writerly News from the U.S. WWI Centennial Site

Censored WWI Works 2: Mary Borden's Forbidden Zone and Backwash of War by Ellen LaMotte

User Rating: 5 / 5

Star ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar ActiveStar Active

Two WWI Nurses Writing From No-Man's-Land

"I have not invented anything in this book."
Mary Borden, The Forbidden Zone: An American Nurse at the Western Front (1917)

"War, superb as it is, is not necessarily a filtering process, by which men and nations may be purified. Well, there are many people to write you of the noble side, the heroic side, the exalted side. I must write you of what I have seen, the other side, the backwash.'"
Ellen Lamotte , The Backwash of War: The Human Wreckage of the Battlefield as Witnessed by An American Hospital Nurse:  (1916)

NursesGasMasksNurses in gas masks at the trenches, France, c. 1917 (U.S. postcard). From the archives of the National Library of Medicine, via Wikimedia Commons.

The first post in this series,, "Censored WWI Works" addressed Stanley Kubrick's film, Paths of Glory, and Gabriel Chevallier's novel, FearFrance censored both works decades after WWI because each seemingly portrayed the French military in a negative light. Today, they are considered among the best artistic representations of the war due to the realistic way they paint a gory, corrupt, and anti-triumphant picture of combat and trench warfare. 

Read more: Censored WWI Works 2: Mary Borden's Forbidden Zone and Backwash of War by Ellen LaMotte

Subcategories

Subscribe to WWrite & More
To sign up for updates to the WWrite blog and WWI topics, or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your email address below.

"Pershing" Donors

$5 Million +


Founding Sponsor
PritzkerMML Logo


Starr Foundation Logo


The Lilly Endowment