War and Memory

This Memorial Day, consider how we remember those who lost their lives in war

War beyond words: languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present

Winter, J. M. Cambridge, 2017
234p bibl index, 9780521873239 $29.99, 9781108294676 $24.00

For four decades, Winter (emer., history, Yale) has researched war and communicated his findings to scholars and laypersons. His new book addresses the cultural history of war through the lenses of language and the creative arts that frame memory. Four chapters in part 1, “Vectors of Memory,” explore the thematic, spatial, and temporal variations in “mediated images” produced since 1914 in art, photographic images, non-documentary films and popular exposure to war, and the semantic history of words, with a focus on war poetry. The three chapters in part 2, “Frameworks of Memory,” examine how imaginings of war are structured by expressions of the sacred and martyrdom, the focus of horizontal and vertical axes at sites of memory, and silence and the suppression of troubling memories, with a focus on shell shock. Winter’s central findings are that since 1914, there has been a shift from recognizing soldiers as victims of war to viewing civilians as victims of war and that together, these undermine the legitimacy of war as an instrument of politics. The book’s last sentence is as depressing as it is insightful: “Imagining war is the curse of our violent world; we have no choice but to face that task with as much intelligence, compassion, and courage as we can.” Splendid illustrations.

Summing Up: Essential. Most levels/libraries.

Reviewer: B. Osborne, Queen’s University at Kingston
Recommendation: Essential
Choice Issue: Mar 2018