Ford Madox Ford's War Writing

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787). This special issue belongs to the section "Literature in the Humanities".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 April 2024) | Viewed by 4386

Special Issue Editors


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Managing Guest Editor
Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
Interests: ford madox ford; first world war; twentieth-century literature; literary modernism; literary caregiving; scholarly editing

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Guest Editor
Independent Scholar, Aberdeen, UK
Interests: First World War; propaganda; modernism; authorship; twentieth-century British and American literature

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Guest Editor
English Department, National Louis University, Chicago, IL 60603, USA
Interests: trauma studies; First World War literature; modernism; Ford Madox Ford; grief and bereavement; modern elegy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

While there are existing studies on Ford Madox Ford’s response to the First World War, especially on Parade’s End, there is a considerable gap in scholarship discussing his poetry, letters, and non-fiction as canonical war literature. Ford had close relationships with other writers and artists; this Special Issue will celebrate this connectedness by looking comparatively at his wartime writing, particularly positioning Ford alongside the canonical war poets and other contemporary writers, such as Katherine Mansfield, May Sinclair, and Virginia Woolf.

After the war, Ford uses his writing to move mourning beyond the confines of physical loss to encompass the loss of morals, virtues, and traditions. As well as offering an opportunity to re-contextualise Ford’s work, this Special Issue will reflect on his war writing in light of recent events and consider how Ford’s engagement with nationalism and a climate of uncertainty might speak to our own times given recent political shifts. There would also be scope to consider how Ford’s portrayal of anxiety and his reckoning with grief in the aftermath of war might correspond with the international response to the global pandemic.

Topics could include:

  • the representation of nationalism in Ford’s wartime writing;
  • Ford’s war fiction, including Parade’s End, No Enemy, and the shorter fiction;
  • comparisons with contemporaries, such as Mary Borden, Vera Brittain, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, and Margaret Postgate Cole;
  • Ford’s war poetry;
  • Ford’s war letters;
  • First World War propaganda and the post-truth era;
  • mourning and memory;
  • war and gender.

Please send an abstract of no more than 300 words, together with a short bibliography to both Dr. Fiona Houston and Dr. Nur Karatas at  and . Abstracts are due by 30 June 2022. Finished essays of around 6000 words are due by 31 January 2023.

Prof. Sara Haslam
Managing Guest Editor

Dr. Fiona Houston
Dr. Nur Karatas
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Humanities is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Ford Madox Ford
  • propaganda
  • war fiction
  • war poetry
  • war-time letters
  • mourning and grief
  • memorial
  • nationalism

Published Papers (5 papers)

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Research

12 pages, 234 KiB  
Article
Humility and Perspective-Taking: Ford’s Ethics and Aesthetics of War Writing
by Eve Sorum
Humanities 2024, 13(3), 78; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13030078 - 22 May 2024
Viewed by 151
Abstract
In an essay written sometime in 1917 or 1918, unpublished during his lifetime and only discovered in 1980, Ford Madox Ford reflects on what his war experience in France taught him: “above all things—humility”. This article argues that Ford’s writing about humility and [...] Read more.
In an essay written sometime in 1917 or 1918, unpublished during his lifetime and only discovered in 1980, Ford Madox Ford reflects on what his war experience in France taught him: “above all things—humility”. This article argues that Ford’s writing about humility and perspective-taking in his wartime essays, which he connects to unstinting attentiveness to the particularities of place and people, can be read through an ecocritical lens that sees an ecological humility as central to reorienting human relationships within the natural world. In reflecting on both the lessons of war and the causes of such conflicts, Ford highlights humility in terms of perspective-taking and, in a related move, foregrounds the necessity for the precise use of language—both he sees as key to representing and preventing war. In so doing, I argue, Ford calls for an aesthetics and an ethics of war writing. Such literature must realize the impossibility and hubris of the bird’s-eye view, instead rooting itself in the ground, both literally and linguistically, while using a precise language that emerges from a clear awareness of this limited perspective. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ford Madox Ford's War Writing)
13 pages, 283 KiB  
Article
Beautiful Birds and Hun Planes: Ford Madox Ford in the Early Age of Flight
by Paul Skinner
Humanities 2024, 13(3), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13030076 - 14 May 2024
Viewed by 355
Abstract
Reactions to the Wright brothers’ achievement of the first sustained, controlled powered flight in December 1903 ranged from complete indifference to voluble celebration and evolved into convictions that ranged from a belief that war would be rendered impossible to confident predictions of invasion [...] Read more.
Reactions to the Wright brothers’ achievement of the first sustained, controlled powered flight in December 1903 ranged from complete indifference to voluble celebration and evolved into convictions that ranged from a belief that war would be rendered impossible to confident predictions of invasion and widespread destruction. The policies and perceptions of institutions, governments and individuals were subject to constant revision and often abrupt reversal. When war came, the aeroplane, which began as an instrument of reconnaissance, rapidly became one more hazard among many for those at the front and a further point of division between combatants and civilians, for whom airships and air raids tended to loom larger. The first dynamic phase in the story of the aeroplane overlaps with the major early modernist period. This essay seeks to map, within that wider context, the experiences and responses of Ford Madox Ford. He began, like many others, with images of beauty and the natural world in that early stage when a functioning range of descriptive or comparative terms had yet to emerge. He encountered them next in the theatre of war during his service in France. His ambivalence towards aeroplanes was both similar to and different from his earlier responses to trains, cars and telephones. Their relative rarity, as well as their both physical and metaphorical distance, and Ford’s own apparent immunity to the glamour and dynamism of aviation enabled him to view them retrospectively and employ them in anecdote, autobiography and fiction as both threat and saviour. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ford Madox Ford's War Writing)
15 pages, 274 KiB  
Article
“Damn the Empire!”: Imperial Excess, National Nostalgia, and Metaphysical Modernism in the Poetics of Parade’s End
by Molly Elizabeth Porter
Humanities 2024, 13(2), 65; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13020065 - 22 Apr 2024
Viewed by 597
Abstract
Ford Madox Ford famously intended his First World War tetralogy Parade’s End to have “for its purpose the obviating of all future wars”. But why do we engage in war to begin with? Modernist literature provides some provocative explanations. Ford’s Sylvia Tietjens, for [...] Read more.
Ford Madox Ford famously intended his First World War tetralogy Parade’s End to have “for its purpose the obviating of all future wars”. But why do we engage in war to begin with? Modernist literature provides some provocative explanations. Ford’s Sylvia Tietjens, for example, proclaims that “You went to war when you desired to rape innumerable women. It was what war was for”. And in the very same year, Virginia Woolf’s shell-shocked Septimus Smith “went to France to save an England which consisted almost entirely of Shakespeare…” I argue that Ford’s understanding of the causality of war involves a strange combination of these two explanations in Parade’s End’s triangulation of seventeenth-century English literary tradition along with sexual and imperial conquest. While countless modernist novels exhibit a sensibility to the power of early modern poetry amidst battle, Parade’s End displays a particularly emphatic and extended focus on the relationship between poetic tradition and war. Soldiers of various ranks “talk…in intimate undertones about the resemblances between the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean sonnet form”, host timed sonnet competitions in the trenches, recurringly quote the seduction poetry of Marvell, and fantasize about George Herbert’s lifespan being “the only satisfactory age in England…yet what chance had it today? Or, still more, to-morrow?”. To answer this question, my own transtemporal study will use early modern scholarship to investigate seventeenth-century metaphysical poetry’s dual power to inspire and potentially obviate war. Much has been written on this tetralogy’s anti-linear plot but less on the broader temporality of its politico-literary vision. I contend that the metaphysical allusions of this text help Ford to show us the complexities of nationalism in the imperial conquest and imperial damnation that (early) modern aesthetics can catalyse. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ford Madox Ford's War Writing)
12 pages, 251 KiB  
Article
‘[M]en’s Dwellings Were Thin Shells’: Uncertain Interiors and Domestic Violence in Ford Madox Ford’s War Writing
by Max Saunders
Humanities 2024, 13(2), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13020054 - 18 Mar 2024
Viewed by 893
Abstract
The standard image of First World War soldiers is of men in open trenches: waiting to attack or be attacked; walking, sitting, sleeping, dead. Ford’s Parade’s End includes such scenes. But it is a different kind of image which predominates in his war [...] Read more.
The standard image of First World War soldiers is of men in open trenches: waiting to attack or be attacked; walking, sitting, sleeping, dead. Ford’s Parade’s End includes such scenes. But it is a different kind of image which predominates in his war writings and often produces its most memorable passages: images of houses or house-like shelters. The mind seeks protection in such structures; but they offer little security against the destructiveness outside, against the bombardments, gas, shrapnel, bullets. Ford wrote that the experience of war revealed: ‘men’s dwellings were thin shells that could be crushed as walnuts are crushed. … all things that lived and moved and had volition and life might at any moment be resolved into a scarlet viscosity seeping into the earth of torn fields […]’. This realisation works in two ways. The soldier’s sense of vulnerability provokes fantasies of home, solidity, sanctuary, while for the returnee soldier, domestic architecture summons war-visions of its own annihilation: ‘it had been revealed to you’, adds Ford, ‘that beneath Ordered Life itself was stretched, the merest film with, beneath it, the abysses of Chaos’. It is now customary to read war literature through trauma theory. Building on analyses of Ford’s use of repression, but drawing instead on object relations theory, I argue that Ford’s houses of war are not screen memories but images of the failure of repression to screen off devastating experiences. The abysses of Chaos can be seen through the screen or projected upon it. Attending to Ford’s handling of this theme enables a new reading of his war writing and a new case for its coherence. The essay will connect the opening of No More Parades (in a hut, during a bombardment) with the war poem ‘The Old Houses of Flanders’; the postwar poem A House; the memoir It Was the Nightingale (quoted above); and the otherwise puzzling, fictionalised memoir No Enemy, structured in terms of ‘Four Landscapes’ and ‘Certain Interiors’. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ford Madox Ford's War Writing)
13 pages, 505 KiB  
Article
The Pragmatics, Poetics, and Ethics of Pronouns in Ford Madox Ford’s War Prose
by Isabelle Brasme
Humanities 2024, 13(2), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/h13020048 - 8 Mar 2024
Viewed by 985
Abstract
This essay adopts a stylistic approach to delineate the various—and varying—pragmatic effects inherent in the use and interactions of pronouns in Ford’s war prose. Ford’s singular use of pronouns is shown to be instrumental in his practice of literary impressionism. In particular, the [...] Read more.
This essay adopts a stylistic approach to delineate the various—and varying—pragmatic effects inherent in the use and interactions of pronouns in Ford’s war prose. Ford’s singular use of pronouns is shown to be instrumental in his practice of literary impressionism. In particular, the omnipresent second person is granted a variety of referents that coexist along a “continuum of reference” (as defined by Bettina Kluge), from a “you” that is speaker-oriented to one that is addressee-oriented. Sorlin’s intersection of Kluge’s continuum with a gradient from personalisation to generalisation (2022) is illuminating when examining the manifold significance of Ford’s use of the second person, as it brings to light its ethical impact. Ford’s war essays shift from the general to the particular and from the collective to the individual in a manner that opposes propaganda rhetorics. Furthermore, the gradient established by Sandrine Sorlin to account for the pragmatic effect of “you” also proves remarkably useful when applied to the pronoun “one”. Scrutinising the interplay between these various pronouns allows us to investigate the multifarious relationships that Ford establishes in his war essays between the persona, the reader, those he often called “my men”, and the collective ethos of wartime Britain. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Ford Madox Ford's War Writing)
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