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Representations of War in Films and Novels

Richard Mason and Jarosław Suchoples

This book discusses different aspects of the cinematic and literary representation of war. The papers in this volume consider the roles of war films and war novels in remaking historical memories, the influence of films and novels as social media and debate their roles as instruments of propaganda and mystification. The book is organized along chronological and geographical lines, looking first at the First and Second World Wars in Europe; then the Pacific War; the Vietnam War; and espionage and propaganda in the Cold War and Post-Cold War.
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History is replete with wars. War is an organized and often prolonged conflict carried out by states and/or non-state actors. It is characterized by extreme violence, killings and waste, human suffering, social and economic destructions. Wars are intentional political violence and widespread armed conflict between political communities. In a seminal study, On War (1832), Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military general and theoretician, defines war as “an act of force to compel our enemy to do our will” and as “an extension of policy by other means”. A state thus hope to attain by war what it cannot attain through diplomacy. Techniques used to carry out war are known as “warfare”.

Wars are arguably among the most dramatic of human dramas. While the decision to go to war are limited to top government officials responsible for the conduct of national policies, the ravages and consequences of wars are unmistakable: the destructions and waste; violent deaths and human sufferings; deserted towns and villages; destroyed buildings and structures; starvation and shortages of food, and the look of deprivation and fear on the peoples’ face. Despite some romanticists’ views, war is certainly no picnic. Indeed, people who have fought in wars or witnessed battles often describe war as “hell”.

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