Conference Program

85th Annual Meeting of the Society for Military History

 Landscapes of War and Peace

April 5 - 8, 2018, Louisville, Kentucky

Title: Presidential Panel co-sponsored by the Hemingway Society - World War I: Literature, History, and Memory
Abstract: Presidential Panel that is co-sponsored by the Hemingway Society. This session will essentially examine three different genres of World War I literature - theater, poetry, and fiction - and consider their engagement with the history of the Great War and its construction in collective memory. Susan McCready (University of South Alabama) will examine how French playwrights responded to the war; Tim Dayton will examine the work and legacy of two contrasting American war poets; and Keith Gandal will offer an interpretation of Hemingway's *A Farewell to Arms* as a noncombatant narrative. In lieu of offering a formal response to the papers, Steven Trout will open the session with a brief overview of Hemingway's career and its many intersections with the military history of the twentieth century.
Steven Trout, University of South Alabama
Susan McCready, University of South Alabama
Participant's Paper Title: French Theater and the Memory of World War I
Participant's Paper Abstract: The sacrificial ground of the battlefield, the purgatory of the trench, and the hallowed ground of the grave loom large in postwar cinema, prose fiction, and memoir. French plays about the Great War, on the other hand, eschew the literal representation of the battlefield, and even the stable, imminently stage-able trench is absent. Instead, the vast majority of plays are set in the postwar and deal with its aftermath; of plays set during the war, most deal with the conflict from the safe distance of the home front. Is this indirect approach the reason that French theater is largely absent from discussions about literature of the Great War?

In Témoins, Jean Norton Cru argues that only the individual eye-witness has the moral authority to report on the experience of war. Only his account, and only when kept pure of political commentary, strategic insight, or tragic hindsight can accurately reflect the truth. Literary memory has followed suit, focusing almost entirely on a limited corpus of novels and memoirs written in the first person by combatants, and marginalizing a significant corpus of plays written about the war in the 1920s and 30s. In this paper I will attempt to move beyond the eye-witness. I will argue that a systematic treatment of war plays has the potential to broaden our understanding of Great War literature in French and to radically shift our understanding of war commemoration and remembrance as collective practices.
Tim Dayton, Kansas State University
Participant's Paper Title: Alan Seeger, Byron Comstock, and the Romantic View of War
Participant's Paper Abstract: This paper will offer a comparison of the best known American soldier poet with an unknown soldier poet who in some ways rejected the romantic view of the war in his 1920 Log of the Devil Dog.
Keith Gandal, City College of New York
Participant's Paper Title: Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms as a Non-Combatant Text
Participant's Paper Abstract: Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms was the only runaway bestselling World War I novel. Is it possible that Hemingway was in part appealing here--in a covert way--to a very special, but huge audience of fellow noncombatants who were desperately in therapeutic need of validation?

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