Writers’ Response to the Architectural Destructions of the Great War

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This article addresses the impact of the architectural destructions of the Great War on heritage culture, proposing a literary approach in connexion with research from other disciplines in the humanities. Many contemporary authors reacted to the bombardment of cities, villages, and monuments, either in the press, or in personal testimonials, or even in works of fiction. The corpus of study brings together all these types of writing produced by professional writers during and immediately after the War, in English and French. An initial set of statements helps us to understand how the war changed the relationship to heritage that then prevailed in Europe. The author examines the specific nature of writers’ responses, looking at the literary devices underlying argumentative strategies in order to express the collective sentiment of loss and mourning. Once placed at the heart of destruction, writers who served in the War used ruins both as a symbol of universal chaos and as a paradigm of modern poetics.

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Between 1918 and 1939, France rebuilt the nearly 4,000 Catholic churches of the Western Front that had been destroyed during the First World War. This thesis presents a cultural history of that process. While it examines technical and financial aspects of reconstruction, the thesis is primarily interested in how Catholics understood the cultural significance of church reconstruction through the shifting and porous contexts of war and peace during the interwar years. It considers how church reconstruction operated at multiple levels: material, conceptual, rhetorical, and ritual. In tracing the evolution of reconstruction efforts across the period—from wartime discourses about reconstruction to the final church reconstructions of the late 1930s—this thesis argues for a trajectory of radicalization. It finds that church reconstruction was initially part of a program for pragmatic post-war reconstruction and modest religious revival in France, but later became the centerpiece of a Catholic crusade for social conquest of domestic political opponents. The history of the reconstruction crusade reveals the persistence of wartime mentalities in French Catholic culture of the interwar period. This thesis ultimately presents the post-war reconstruction of Catholic heritage sites as a fraught process and suggests that conflict can paradoxically persist through the reconstruction of religious sites previously implicated in conflict.
HynesSamuel. A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. New York: Atheneum. 1991. Pp. xiv, 514. $29.95. AnnanNoel. Our Age. British Intellectuals between the Wars: A Group Portrait. New York: Random House. 1990. Pp. 451. $30.00. - Volume 24 Issue 3 - Gordon Beadle
“I took my road with no little pride of fear; one morning I feared very sharply, as I saw what looked like a rising shroud over a wooden cross in the clustering mist. Horror! But on a closer study I realized that the apparition was only a flannel gas helmet. . . . What an age since 1914!” In Undertones of War, one of the finest autobiographies to come out of World War I, the acclaimed poet Edmund Blunden records his devastating experiences in combat. After enlisting at the age of twenty, he took part in the disastrous battles at the Somme, Ypres, and Passchendaele, describing them as “murder, not only to the troops but to their singing faiths and hopes.” All the horrors of trench warfare, all the absurdity and feeble attempts to make sense of the fighting, all the strangeness of observing war as a writer—of being simultaneously soldier and poet—pervade Blunden’s memoir. In steely-eyed prose as richly allusive as any poetry, he tells of the endurance and despair found among the men of his battalion, including the harrowing acts of bravery that won him the Military Cross. Now back in print for American readers, the volume includes a selection of Blunden’s war poems that unflinchingly juxtapose death in the trenches with the beauty of Flanders’s fields. Undertones of War deserves a place on anyone’s bookshelf between Siegfried Sassoon’s poetry and Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That.
The Linguistic Turn provides a rich and representative introduction to the entire historical and doctrinal range of the linguistic philosophy movement. In two retrospective essays titled "Ten Years After" and "Twenty-Five Years After," Rorty shows how his book was shaped by the time in which it was written and traces the directions philosophical study has taken since. "All too rarely an anthology is put together that reflects imagination, command, and comprehensiveness. Rorty's collection is just such a book."—Review of Metaphysics
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