From the Iliad and Shakespeare to documentary films about the wars in Iraq in Afghanistan in the first decade of the 21st century, this volume, though it can only sample from the vast body of war-related literature and film, provides both an introduction and an intriguing cross-section of the field. In the words of the volumes' editor, "For most war writers, it is the person who hasn't witnessed war with whom they most desperately want to speak."
Edited by Alex Vernon, Associate Professor of English at Hendrix College and author and editor of several volumes of war-related nonfiction and literary criticism, this volume in the Critical Insights series presents a variety of new essays on the perennial theme. For readers who are studying it for the first time, a four essays survey the critical conversation regarding the theme, explore its cultural and historical contexts, and offer close and comparative readings of key texts in the genre. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the theme can then move on to other essays that explore it in depth through a variety of critical approaches. Works discussed include Henry V; captivity narratives from Colonial America to Vietnam to modern-day Afghanistan; poetry from the Civil War and World War I; Holocaust literature; and selections from war journalism, women's writings on war, veterans' memoirs, and soldiers' letters home. With sources ranging from the usual suspects (Hemingway, Vonnegut and O'Brien) to writers not as commonly associated with war literature such as Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Flannery O'Connor, and a host of modern science fiction writers, the volume provides a unique viewpoint on just how deeply the specter of war has embedded itself in the consciousness and artistic expressions of human beings.
Rounding out the volume are a list of literary works not mentioned in the book that concern the theme of war and as well as a bibliography of critical sources for readers seeking to study this timeless theme in greater depth.