Specific contexts

We propose therefore to revisit the Great War and its aftermath, giving particular attention to historical, cultural, artistic and literary representations in the following specific contexts:

1.    Peripheral Theatres of War
Minor or apparently minor theatres of war included naval engagements off the coast of South America, the Middle East (the struggle for access to oil) and the campaigns made famous around the figure of Lawrence of Arabia, or in East Africa where it was said to be so hot that no serious war could take place because “we would all melt like ice cream in the sun.” Part of the cause of the war was competition for colonial resources and so the contiguous colonies of European combatants would therefore seem to be a fruitful zone of enquiry, as well as the places which, like Portugal, were at first neutral but which increasingly were drawn into the fray.


2.    Transformation of the Great War - the emergence of the modern
A second area of interest for the conference concerns revisiting the impact of the 1st World War on modernity. Much of what we understand as the modern world was generated by 1914-18, in terms of material conditions, of mentalities and of capacity to respond to circumstances.  Instances of these developments come readily to mind. Radio went from being (pre-war) a useful method for ships to communicate at sea to becoming the first form of mass broadcast media within 7 years of the end of the war. A similar case could be made for the irresistible march of the aviation industry. The necessities of war over-rode inertia and resistance, made things happen. Mentalities changed too. The establishment of state socialism in Russia occurred with unprecedented rapidity. Conditions, again both material and cognitive, fell into place for the emergence of the so-called Age of the Common Man. Who these common people were and how they behaved was very much part of the flux of the post-war years. Thirdly, the end of the war saw the spectacular return of humanity’s traditional enemy, disease, in the form of the great influenza epidemic of 1918-19. Behind these (and other) events however were the scientists working to understand and master nature, and who (in retrospect) could be said to have achieved a greater measure of control over it than had been enjoyed at any time. Examples abound of procedural and technical breakthroughs in the period 1918-30, some like those in plastic surgery which were the direct consequence of the abundance of war injuries.


3.    Dislocated Lives
The period 1914-18 was characterized by millions of separated, divided and estranged families, by relationships in suspension. Many people found themselves displaced and disordered by war, caught in transit, non-combatants in hostile or neutral territory, often asked to take sides, cut off from their homes. When the war ended, these dislocated persons were obliged to return to changed nations, homes, and loved ones. What accounts did these displaced persons, famous and obscure, make of their experiences? How did enforced uprooting, separation and exile affect belonging and identity in the creative arts of the period?

4.    Micro-narratives of the war years
Journals, diaries and letters constituted essential human documents registering the impact of the war before the advent of more recent forms of technologised communication. This section of the conference focuses on the personal documentation of war experience, from both the home front and from sites of combat and seeks to clarify how these utterances can alter canonical notions of writing genres. Effectively rejecting approved literary forms and working within an intimist framework, these personal documents clearly interface with and modify better-known and canonically legitimated forms, like the poetry of the Great War. We are also interested in war reporting, as professionals sought to gain access to the zones of conflict and thereby to give more personal and detailed accounts of what was happening. Clearly, the new form and scale of international warfare invited new probing forms of enquiry, just as they risked obfuscation by new forms of propaganda and censorship.


Deadline for registration: 20 July 2015

Paper submitters will be notified of acceptance by July 25th