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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On


Edited By Sally Debra Charnow

The Great War set in motion all of the subsequent violence of the twentieth century. The war took millions of lives, led to the fall of four empires, established new nations, and negatively affected others. During and after the war, individuals and communities struggled to find expression for their wartime encounters and communal as well as individual mourning. Throughout this time of enormous upheaval, many artists redefined their role in society, among them writers, performers, painters, and composers. Some sought to renew or re-establish their place in the postwar climate, while others longed for an irretrievable past, and still others tried to break with the past entirely.

This volume offers a significant interdisciplinary contribution to the study of modern war, exploring the ways that artists contributed to wartime culture – both representing and shaping it – as well as the ways in which wartime culture influenced artistic expressions. Artists’ places within and against reconstruction efforts illuminate the struggles of the day. The essays included represent a transnational perspective and seek to examine how artists dealt with the experience of conflict and mourning and their role in (re-)establishing creative practices in the changing climate of the interwar years.

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Part II Civilians and the Home Front: Gender, Censorship, Propaganda, and the Avant-Garde


PART IICivilians and the Home Front: Gender, Censorship,Propaganda, and the Avant-Garde

The chapters in this part explore the work of civilian artists, many of whom were well-known patriots at the time, but have been eclipsed in historiographical accounts for either aesthetic or political reasons. During the war, new opportunities opened up for civilian artists and writers. Notably, women artists and civilians found opportunities even though traditional women’s roles of sacrifice and caregiving were often brought to the fore. These chapters demonstrate the ways in which tension between the modern and the traditional was a major thread underlying the work of civilian cultural actors, government and civil institutions, and even displayed within a single work of art. However, what is considered modern/innovative or traditional is further complicated and varied depending on their specific contexts. In Artists as Censors: The Case of the Vigilantes, George Robb traces the thousands of articles published by the Vigilantes, a private patriotic organization of some 400 American writers and artists active during the war, in American newspapers through their own syndicated press. Harkening back to late nineteenth-century traditional nativist rhetoric, the overwhelmingly WASP Vigilantes, espoused a more jingoist propaganda than was advocated even by the United States’ government. They pushed for the Americanization of immigrants, denounced pacifists, and worked to suppress any publications they deemed pro-German or anti-war. Through their published articles and censorship campaigns, the Vigilantes urged civilians to support the war by joining the Red Cross, buying war bonds, and planting...

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