As Karen Malpede points out in her introduction to Acts of War, tragedy "arose as a complement to, perhaps also as an antidote to, war." The greatest of the early playwrights wrote from experience—Aeschylus and Sophocles were generals in the Athenian army, and Euripides was a combat veteran. Electronic media reports war instantly, but the stage provides an unrivaled venue for facing the horror of armed conflict on a human scale.This timely anthology of plays by American and British writers bears witness to the realities of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for combatants and civilians alike and asks what it means to be a citizen in a democracy at war. From violence on the battlefield and in the cells of Guantanamo to the toll exacted on the homefront, the seven plays collected by Malpede, Messina, and Shuman explore in depth the costs of war. Sometimes with humor or erotic charge, always with compassion and surprising insight, these contemporary plays return to the theater a necessary social edge.
Karen Malpede’s introduction sets the plays in the broader contexts of theater’s roots and recent history, while award-winning journalist and author Chris Hedges provides a foreword.
“Sharon Talley draws on psychoanalytic theory to illuminate the connections between Bierce’s life and works, without ever losing sight of the historical contexts—especially his experience in the Civil War—that also shaped his creativity. This judicious and comprehensive book will give a major boost to the reassessment of Bierce’s place in American letters.”
—Peter L. Rudnytsky, author of Reading Psychoanalysis: Freud, Rank, Ferenczi, Groddeck
Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death uses psychoanalytic theory in combination with historical, cultural, and literary contexts to examine the complex motif of death in a full range of Bierce’s writings. Scholarly interest in Bierce, whose work has long been undervalued, has grown significantly in recent years. This new book contributes to the ongoing reassessment by providing new contexts for joining the texts in his canon in meaningful ways.
Previous attempts to consider Bierce from a psychological perspective have been superficial, often reductive Freudian readings of individual stories such as “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “The Death of Halpin Frayser.” This new volume not only updates these interpretations with insights from post-Freudian theorists but uses contemporary death theory as a framework to analyze the sources and expressions of Bierce’s attitudes about death and dying. This approach makes it possible to discern links among texts that resolve some of the still puzzling ambiguities that have—until now—precluded a fuller understanding of both the man and his writings.
Lively and engaging, Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death adds valuable new insights not only to the study of Bierce but to that of nineteenth-century American literature in general.
Sharon Talley is the author of the Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her articles have been published in Nineteenth-Century Prose, American Imago, and the Journal of Men’s Studies. She is associate professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
Dramatically compelling and historically informed, The Death of a Confederate Colonel takes us into the lives of those left behind during the Civil War. These stories, all with Arkansas settings, are filled with the trauma of the time. They tell of a Confederate woman’s care of and growing affection for a wounded Union soldier, a plantation mistress’s singular love for a sick slave child, and an eight-year-old girl’s fight for survival against frigid cold, injury, starvation, heartbreak, and lawlessness. Here are women holding down the home front with heroism and loyalty, or, sometimes, with weakness and duplicity. Will a young belle remain loyal to her wounded fiance? How long can a caring nurse hold her finger on a severed artery? And how does anyone comprehend the legacy of slavery and the brutality of war? The Death of a Confederate Colonel triumphs in its portrayal of desperate circumstances coated in the patina of the Civil War era, the complexity of ordinary people confronting situations that change them forever.
It is in the spirit of the LZ that the essayists in Fourteen Landing Zones approach the writings of the Vietnam War. These fourteen diverse and powerful works by some of today's leading critics in Vietnam studies begin to answer the question of how we will filter the writings of the Vietnam War—including fiction, poetry, drama, and memoirs. What will survive the process of critical acclaim and societal affirmation—and why? Included is an incisive introduction by Jason that provides an overview of the burgeoning body of Vietnam War literature and its peculiar life in the literary and academic marketplace. This strong, often emotional volume will be of particular importance to all those interested in the literature of the Vietnam War, contemporary literature, and contemporary culture and history.
A masterwork of World War I short stories portraying the experiences of Marines in battle.
Points of Honor: Short Stories of the Great War by a US Combat Marine is based on author Thomas Alexander Boyd’s personal experiences as an enlisted Marine. First published in 1925 and long out of print, this edition rescues from obscurity a vivid, kaleidoscopic vision of American soldiers, US Marines mostly, serving in a global conflict a century ago. It is a true forgotten masterpiece of World War I literature.
The stories in Points of Honor deal almost entirely with Marines in the midst of battle—or faced with the consequences of military violence. The eleven stories in this collection offer a panoramic view of war experience and its aftermath, what Boyd described as “a mass of more human happenings.” The themes are often antiheroic: dehumanization, pettiness, betrayal by loved ones at home, and the cruelty of military justice. But Boyd’s vision also accommodates courage and loyalty. Like all great works of war literature, this collection underscores the central paradox of armed conflict—its ability to bring out both the best and worst in human beings.
This reissue of Points of Honor is edited, annotated, and introduced by Steven Trout. Trout provides an overview of Thomas Boyd’s war experience and writing career and situates the stories within the broader context of World War I American literature.
Points of Honor received strong reviews at the time of its initial publication and remains an overwhelming reading experience today. While each of the stories is a freestanding work of art, when read together they carry the force of a novel.
Famous for its insight into a young, inexperienced soldier’s psychology, Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage has long been assumed to have been based on little more than magazine articles and veterans’ reminiscences. It also has been subject to various misreadings, including ones unduly influenced by fictional responses to the wars of the twentieth century. Perry Lentz now draws on more than three decades of teaching the novel and his own experience as a historical novelist to plumb the historical realities that actually shaped Crane’s work and to confront these misreadings.
Taking a new look at a classic work that many may feel they already know, Lentz shows how this apparently impressionistic novel is actually a faithful reflection of Civil War combat based on thorough knowledge about combat in general and the battle of Chancellorsville in particular. Anchoring the novel’s action firmly in the Civil War, Lentz challenges the long-standing assumption that Crane did little research for the novel, arguing that he made extensive use of contemporary sources to fashion an accurate depiction of Chancellorsville.
Rich with information about infantry combat in the Civil War, from uniforms and weaponry to formations and battlefield tactics, Lentz’s study invites readers to follow the exploits of Private Henry Fleming of the 304th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment as he and his fellow soldiers participate in this legendary battle. Lentz shows how Crane evokes a set of traditional responses from his reader and how close reading expands those responses. He examines Private Fleming’s adventures behind the lines of battle in terms of the historical situations in which they are set, then explains how Crane repeatedly entices readers into imposing their initial expectations and final evaluations upon the experiences of this particular soldier.
Lentz also investigates why the novel’s portrayal of its hero’s experiences on the second day of battle is sometimes ignored and always undervalued. By focusing on events both as they actually unfolded at Chancellorsville and as Crane depicted Fleming and his comrades experiencing them, he shows how these soldiers judge themselves, how others judge them, and how a reader can achieve a more sophisticated understanding of these judgments. Lentz’s work reclaims a place for this novel in the American canon and enhances our understanding of Crane, of a legendary battle, and of war literature in general.
The decade following the American defeat in Vietnam has been filled with doubts about American politics and values, confusion over the lessons of the war, and anger about the physical and psychological suffering that occurred during the war as well as thereafter. In the years since the U.S. withdrawal, our need to make sense of Vietnam has prompted an outpouring of thinking and writing, from scholarly reappraisals of American foreign policy to highly personal accounts of participants. On the tenth anniversary of the final U. S. withdrawal, the Asia Society sponsored a conference on the Vietnam experience in American literature at which leading writers, critics, publishers, commentators, and academics wrestled with this phenomenon. Drawing on the synergy of this conference, Timothy J. Lomperis has produced an original work that focuses on the growing body of literature—including novels, personal accounts, and oral histories—which describes the experiences of American soldiers in Vietnam as well as the experience of veterans upon their return home.
Approximately fifty historical novels dealing with the American Revolution were published in the United States from 1896 to 1906. Benjamin S. Lawson critically examines the narrative strategies employed in these works and the ways in which fiction is made to serve the purpose of vivifying national history.
Writing within the conventions of the historical romance, these authors created plots that reflect the enveloping concerns of the War for Independence, such as the young American woman who often must choose between suitors on opposite sides in the wider conflict.
Lawson concludes that these works reassured readers of the worth of an Anglo-American heritage. They were escapist fantasies to the degree that they failed to confront contemporary realities of crisis and change: the New Immigration, urbanization and industrialization, labor strife, the plight of the poor, and agitation on behalf of women and ethnic minorities.
The Korean War was a major event in American history. It marked an abrupt end to the euphoria Americans felt in the wake of victory in World War II and turned out to be the harbinger of disaster in Vietnam a decade later.
Though three years of brutal fighting resulted in millions of casualties, the final truce line of 1953 corresponded almost exactly to the positions the opponents held when the fighting began. Back home, the returning veterans met with little interest in or appreciation of what they had endured. Consequently, literary responses to the Korean War did not find an eager readership. Few people, it seemed, wanted to read about what they perceived as a backwater war that possessed neither grand scale nor apparent nobility, a war that ended not with a bang, but a whimper.
Yet an important literature has come out of the Korean War. As we mark the fiftieth anniversary of the war, these writings are well worth our attention. Many of the twelve stories and fifty poems assembled in Retrieving Bones have long been out of print and are almost impossible to find in any other source. The editors have enhanced this collection by providing maps, a chronology of the Korean War, and annotated lists of novels, works of nonfiction, and films. In a detailed introduction, Ehrhart and Jason discuss the milestones of the Korean War and place each fiction writer and poet represented into historical and literary contexts.
Search and Clear demonstrates that the seeds of war were implicit in American culture, distinguishes between literature spawned by Vietnam and that of other conflicts, reviews the literary merits of works both well and little known, and explores the assumptions behind and the persistence of stereotypes associated with the consequences of the Vietnam War. It examines the role of women in fiction, the importance of gender in Vietnam representation, and the mythic patterns in Oliver Stone’s Platoon. Essayists sharply scrutinize American values, conduct, and conscience as they are revealed in the craft of Tim O’Brien, Philip Caputo, Michael Herr, Stephen Wright, David Rabe, Bruce Weigl, and others.
As the world enters a new century, as it embarks on new wars and sees new developments in the waging of war, reconsiderations of the last century’s legacy of warfare are necessary to our understanding of the current world order. In Soldiers Once and Still, Alex Vernon looks back through the twentieth century in order to confront issues of self and community in veterans’ literature, exploring how war and the military have shaped the identities of Ernest Hemingway, James Salter, and Tim O’Brien, three of the twentieth century’s most respected authors. Vernon specifically explores the various ways war and the military, through both cultural and personal experience, have affected social and gender identities and dynamics in each author’s work.
Hemingway, Salter, and O’Brien form the core of Soldiers Once and Still because each represents a different warring generation of twentieth-century America: World War I with Hemingway, World War II and Korea with Salter, and Vietnam with O’Brien. Each author also represents a different literary voice of the twentieth century, from modern to mid-century to postmodern, and each presents a different battlefield experience: Hemingway as noncombatant, Salter as air force fighter pilot, and O’Brien as army grunt.
War’s pervasive influence on the individual means that, for veterans-turned-writers like Hemingway, Salter, and O’Brien, the war experience infiltrates their entire body of writing—their works can be seen not only as war literature but also as veterans’ literature. As such, their entire postwar oeuvre, regardless of whether an individual work explicitly addresses the war or the military, is open to Vernon’s exploration of war, society, gender, and literary history.
Vernon’s own experiences as a soldier, a veteran, a writer, and a critic inform this enlightening critique of American literature, offering students and scholars of American literature and war studies an invaluable tool for understanding war’s effects on the veteran writer and his society.
During and after the Civil War, southern women played a critical role in shaping the South’s
evolving collective memory by penning journals and diaries, historical accounts, memoirs,
and literary interpretations of the war. While a few of these writings—most notably Mary
Chesnut’s diaries and Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind—have been studied in
depth by numerous scholars, until now there has been no comprehensive examination of
Civil War novels by southern women. In this welcome study, Sharon Talley explores works
by fifteen such writers, illuminating the role that southern women played in fashioning
cultural identity in the region.
Beginning with Augusta Jane Evans’s Macaria and Sallie Rochester Ford’s Raids and
Romance of Morgan and His Men, which were published as the war still raged, Talley offers
a chronological consideration of the novels with informative introductions for each time
period. She examines Reconstruction works by Marion Harland, Mary Ann Cruse, and
Rebecca Harding Davis, novels of the “Redeemed” South and the turn of the century by
Mary Noailles Murfree, Ellen Glasgow, and Mary Johnston, and narratives by Evelyn Scott,
Margaret Mitchell, and Caroline Gordon from the Modern period that spanned the two
World Wars. Analysis of Margaret Walker’s Jubilee (1966), the first critically acclaimed Civil
War novel by an African American woman of the South, as well as other post–World War
II works by Kaye Gibbons, Josephine Humphreys, and Alice Randall, offers a fitting conclusion
to Talley’s study by addressing the inaccuracies in the romantic myth of the Old South
that Gone with the Wind most famously engraved on the nation’s consciousness.
Informed by feminist, poststructural, and cultural studies theory, Talley’s close readings
of these various novels ultimately refute the notion of a monolithic interpretation of
the Civil War, presenting instead unique and diverse approaches to balancing “fact” and
“fiction” in the long period of artistic production concerning this singular traumatic event
in American history.
Sharon Talley, professor of English at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, is the author
of Ambrose Bierce and the Dance of Death and Student Companion to Herman Melville. Her
articles have appeared in American Imago, Journal of Men’s Studies, and Nineteenth-Century
Even before the first cannonballs were fired at Fort Sumter, American writers were trying to make creative sense of the War Between the States. These thirty-one stories were culled from hundreds that circulated in popular magazines between 1861 and the celebration of the American centennial in 1876. Arranged to echo the sequence of the unfolding drama of the war and Reconstruction, together these short stories constitute an “inadvertent novel,” a collective narrative about a domestic crisis that was still ongoing as the stories were being written and published. The authors, who include Louisa May Alcott and Mark Twain, depict the horrors of the battlefield, the suffering in prison camps and field hospitals, and the privations of the home front. In these pages, bushwhackers carry the war to out-of-the-way homesteads, spies work households from the inside, journeying paymasters rely on the kindness of border women, and soldiers turn out to be girls. The stories are populated with nurses, officers, speculators, preachers, slaves, and black troops, and they take place in cities, along the frontier, and on battlefields from Shiloh to Gettysburg. The book opens with a prewar vigilante attack on the Underground Railroad and a Kansas parson in Henry King’s “The Cabin at Pharoah’s Ford” and concludes with an ex-slave recalling the loss of her remaining son in Twain’s “A True Story.” In between are stories written by both women and men that were published in magazines from the South and West as well as the culturally dominant Northeast. Wartime wood engravings highlight the text. Kathleen Diffley’s introduction provides literary and historical background, and her commentary introduces readers to magazine authors as well as the deepening disruptions of a country at war. Just as they did for nineteenth-century readers, these stories will bring the war home to contemporary readers, giving shape to a crisis that rocked the nation then and continues to haunt it now.
A Trauma Artist examines how O'Brien's works variously rewrite his own traumatization during the war in Vietnam as a never-ending fiction that paradoxically "recovers" personal experience by both recapturing and (re)disguising it. Mark Heberle considers O'Brien's career as a writer through the prisms of post-traumatic stress disorder, postmodernist metafiction, and post-World War II American political uncertainties and public violence.
Based on recent conversations with O'Brien, previously published interviews, and new readings of all his works through 1999, this book is the first study to concentrate on the role and representation of trauma as the central focus of all O'Brien's works, whether situated in Vietnam, in post-Vietnam America, or in the imagination of protagonists suspended between the two. By doing so, Heberle redefines O'Brien as a major U.S. writer of the late twentieth century whose representations of self-damaging experiences and narratives of recovery characterize not only the war in Vietnam but also relationships between fathers and sons and men and women in the post-traumatic culture of the contemporary United States.
Phillip Caputo, Larry Heinemann, Tim O’Brien, and Robert Olen Butler: four young midwestern Americans coming of age during the 1960s who faced a difficult personal decision—whether or not to fight in Vietnam. Each chose to participate. After coming home, these four veterans became prizewinning authors telling the war stories and life stories of soldiers and civilians. The four extended conversations included in Writing Vietnam, Writing Life feature revealing personal stories alongside candid assessments of each author’s distinct roles as son, soldier, writer, and teacher of creative writing.
As Tobey Herzog's thoughtful interviews reveal, these soldier-authors have diverse upbringings, values, interests, writing careers, life experiences, and literary voices. They hold wide-ranging views on, among other things, fatherhood, war, the military, religion, the creative process, the current state of the world, and the nature of both physical and moral courage. For each author, the conversation and richly annotated chronology provide an overview of the writer’s life, the intersection of memory and imagination in his writing, and the path of his literary career. Together, these four life stories also offer mini-tableaux of the fascinating and troubling time of 1960s and 1970s America. Above all, the conversations reveal that each author is linked forever to the Vietnam War, the country of Vietnam, and its people.