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Remembering Viet Nam: Gustav Hasford, Ron Kovic, Tim O’Brien and the Fabrication of American Cultural Memory

Gustav Hasford, Ron Kovic, Tim O'Brien and the Fabrication of American Cultural Memory

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Regula Fuchs

How does American culture deal with its memories of the Vietnam War and what role does literature play in this process? Remembering Viet Nam is a fascinating exploration of the ways in which authors of Vietnam War literature represent American cultural memory in their writings. The analysis is based on a wide array of sources including historical, political, cultural and literary studies as well as works on trauma. It begins with an examination of American foundation myths – their normative, formative and, most of all, their bonding nature – and the role institutions such as the military and the media play in upholding these myths. The study then considers the soldiers’ and war veterans’ minds and bodies and the stories they tell as key sites in the debates over the war’s place in American cultural memory. The multilayered approach of Remembering Viet Nam allows the investigation of Vietnam War literature in its whole breadth including the debates instigated by the works examined and the influence these narratives themselves have on American cultural memory. Most importantly, the analysis uncovers why American foundation myths – despite their being thoroughly questioned and even exposed as cultural inventions by authors and reviewers of Vietnam War literature – can still retain their power within American society.