Publisher's Description

A distinctive collection of essays addressing the genre of military autobiography

"There is a tremendous need to understand the nature of modern war. We don't know enough about what war does to us, and this collection helps address that issue. Arms & the Self loosely defines war narratives to include writings by those who faced one another in direct combat and those participants who may not have experienced combat but are still affected by the trauma of war. The purpose of this book seems to be clear enough: to explore the various forms of autobiographical writing by various participants of war, at all levels of intensity, and I think it is a very good one. This is a unique and important book."--James H. Meredith, contributing editor, WLA: War, Literature, & the Arts; and President, Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society

War, armed conflict in general, and military service have likely inspired more textual testimonies than any other human event. Wars shatter every boundary imaginable—from national boundaries to bodily ones—confusing distinctions between social castes as well as between friends and foes, men and women, humans and animals, humans and machines, and even the living and the dead, making it difficult to classify what texts actually fall into the category “military autobiography.”

With its wide range of primary texts to demonstrate the many conflicts, author-participants, and interpretive perspectives, Arms and the Self provides an eclectic, suggestive perspective on this complex and varied field. With contributing authors such as Lynn Z. Bloom, Margaretta Jolly, Robert Lawson-Peebles, and Robert Shenk, the critical essays extend from Xenophon’s memoir of his two years marching with the mercenaries of the Persian Prince Cyrus, through Canadian accounts of the Boer War and American civilian women’s narratives of confinement in WWII Japanese internment camps, to Vietnam veterans’ online testimonials and post–Persian Gulf War memoirs written as management primers.

This thought-provoking collection adds significantly to the critical canon of military autobiography. With a helpful introduction and an extensive bibliography, Arms and the Self is an excellent tool for those interested in the literature of war and autobiographical writing.


▪   Biography: “This is an important collection of what military life-writing can mean, and [Vernon’s] splendid introduction presents us with uncomfortable new questions we need to answer—soon.” (29.3, Summer 2006)