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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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14. The (French) Art of Remembering: Representations of World War I from the Contemporary to the Contemporaneous (Elizabeth Benjamin)



The (French) Art of Remembering: Representationsof World War I from the Contemporary to theContemporaneous


At the centenary of World War I, questions of how to commemorate this global historical moment opened up issues of appropriate representation of the conflict and the memory thereof. The study of artefacts across World War I’s afterlife, with a particular focus on their use as representation of the conflict at the centenary, allows us to trace an evolution of approaches to the conflict itself as well as its developing memoryscape. This chapter will examine these developments in relation to the progression of history and memory in collective consciousness and individual memory-identity constructs, from a theoretical framework of cultural memory and verbo-visual culture. The chapter dedicates itself to the Francophone example.

‘No one knows what the past will be made of next’, wrote Pierre Nora.1 His words took place at the two hundred year anniversary of the French Revolution, the point in time, for him, when French society changed to such an extent, and so suddenly, that certain links with the past were broken, and memory and remembering took on a new and fundamentally different role. As a species we are oddly attached to linear time, so it is of no surprise that anniversaries are important to us, and centenaries even more so. World War I’s centenary is no different, and is a date of significance within as well as far beyond France. Centennial commemorations...

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