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Artistic Expressions and the Great War, A Hundred Years On

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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 III Coping with War Trauma: Tradition, Nostalgia, and (Re)construction

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PART IIICoping with War Trauma: Tradition, Nostalgia, and(Re)construction

The third part of this volume is comprised of three chapters examining various artistic strategies for dealing with the pain, violence, and dislocations of the war. In war-writing and postwar music and dance, the memories of death, loss, and deformation were often intertwined with (re)generative visions of postwar renewal. Writers and composers interlaced their recollections of traditional practices with contemporary efforts to create new innovative forms, forging a kind of cultural rebirth. Stephen Katz focuses on Jewish writers, in many cases Zionist, who served as soldiers on the Eastern Front. In Fighting a Dual War: Hebrew Literature and the Experience of the Great War, Katz examines works by U. Z. Greenberg, A. Hameiri, Y. Ya‘ari, and S. Y. Agnon that stand out, like the writing of many of their non-Jewish peers, as both pacifist and anti-heroic. Aside from underscoring the authors’ perceptions of war trauma these works specifically address issues confronting Jewish soldiers such as the prevalence of antisemitism and revised theological notions in the face of wartime atrocities. These works also address a dilemma of Jewish soldiers loyal to a national flag: they had to kill their co-religionists on the enemy side. Jewish writers relied on autobiographical detail and descriptions of the battlefield including the shock at witnessing the war dead that often challenged their traditional notions about the divine. Their experiences of ongoing antisemitic attitudes in the armed forces and civilian life, and the...

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