From the epic poems of Homer and Virgil to the comic strips of Art Spiegelmann, war has been a recurrent theme in literature. Moreover, it has frequently been a crucial factor in determining the shape of different literary movements, such as Romanticism, propelled by the outbreak of the French Revolution, or Modernism, influenced by the tragic experiences of the Great War. In her introduction to The Cambridge Companion to War Writing, Kate McLoughlin notes that every military conflict appears to have its own “poesis,” if not its own genre. Whereas the First World War favoured poetry and the Second – the novel, the film appeared best suited to depict the horrors of the Vietnam War and the blog – to report the so called “war on terror.” Despite this vast body of texts inspired by warfare, war literature seems perpetually haunted by the notion of unrepresentability. Conveying through language the unspeakable atrocities of war without trivializing or sensationalizing the experiences of its casualties continues to pose a challenge today. The year 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, seems an opportune moment to comment on the complex relationship between war and words. The ambition of our conference is to provide a space for such critical considerations.
We invite papers on various ways in which the worlds of warfare and textuality interrelate. We are interested both in contributions to the various genres of imaginative literature and in those exploring writings that have documentary value: ephemeral texts, private diaries, letters, leaflets and journalism.
Varied aspects of the relationship between literature, ephemeral writings and war are listed below. However, we are open to new proposals, providing they represent a perspective on the interplay between words and war, texts and military conflicts.