Special Issue "War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy"

A special issue of Humanities (ISSN 2076-0787).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (11 February 2019)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Rachel McCoppin

University of Minnesota Crookston, Liberal Arts and Education Department, 2900 University Ave., Crookston, MN 56716, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: world literature, world mythology, comparative literature

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The topic of war and literature has received much critical attention; however, this special issue focuses specifically on literary texts that discuss the topic of commiseration with the “enemy” within war literature. Texts that show authors and/or literary characters attempting to understand the motives, beliefs, cultural values, etc. of those who have been defined by their nations as their enemies often shows that the soldier has begun a process of reflection about why he or she is part of the war experience. These texts also show how political authorities often resort to propaganda and myth-making tactics that are meant to convince soldiers that they are fighting opponents who are evil, sub-human, etc., and are therefore their direct enemies. Literary texts that show an author and/or literary character trying to reflect against state supported definitions of good/evil, right/wrong, ally/enemy often present an opportunity to reevaluate the purposes of war, and one’s moral responsibility during wartime. In the contemporary era, with the threat of war a consistent reality, it is important to acknowledge the literary texts that reflect upon the political manipulation of belief during wartime that causes one to embrace intolerance towards others by maintaining a designation that they are the enemy.   

This issue is especially interested in receiving articles that discuss texts written from the viewpoint of soldiers contemplating the reasons as to why they are fighting. Texts that focus on a soldier’s reflection about what their enemy might be like, who they are, what they believe, etc. are especially desirable. Also texts that focus on the enemy with respect or commiseration are welcomed, like Euripides’ Trojan Women. In addition, texts that are written from the standpoint of the perceived enemy are also highly desirable, such as Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet of the Western Front. This special issue is interested in texts from around the world from any era.

Prof. Rachel McCoppin
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • War and literature
  • Commiseration
  • Reflection upon enemy
  • Propaganda
  • Moral Responsibility

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Two 1916s: Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010060
Received: 11 February 2019 / Revised: 19 March 2019 / Accepted: 21 March 2019 / Published: 23 March 2019
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Abstract
As Paul Fussell has shown, the First World War was a watershed moment for 20th century British history and culture. While the role of the 36th (Ulster) Division in the Battle of the Somme has become a part of unionist iconography in what [...] Read more.
As Paul Fussell has shown, the First World War was a watershed moment for 20th century British history and culture. While the role of the 36th (Ulster) Division in the Battle of the Somme has become a part of unionist iconography in what is now Northern Ireland, the experience of southern or nationalist Irish soldiers in the war remains underrepresented. Sebastian Barry’s 2005 novel, A Long Long Way is one attempt to correct this historical imbalance. This article will examine how Barry represents the relationship between the First World War and the 1916 Easter Rising through the eyes of his politically-conflicted protagonist, Willie Dunne. While the novel at first seems to present a common war experience as a means of healing political divisions between Ireland and Britain, this solution ultimately proves untenable. By the end of the novel, Willie’s hybrid English–Irish identity makes him an outcast in both places, even as he increasingly begins to identify with the Irish nationalist cause. Unlike some of Barry’s other novels, A Long Long Way does not present a disillusioned version of the early 20th century Irish nationalism. Instead, Willie sympathizes with the rebels, and Barry ultimately argues for a more inclusive Irish national identity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Depictions of American Indians in George Armstrong Custer’s My Life on the Plains
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 56; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010056
Received: 8 February 2019 / Revised: 8 March 2019 / Accepted: 10 March 2019 / Published: 14 March 2019
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Abstract
General George Armstrong Custer remains one of the most iconic and mythologized figures in the history of the American West. His infamous defeat at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn largely defines his legacy; historical scholarship and popular representations of Custer consistently [...] Read more.
General George Armstrong Custer remains one of the most iconic and mythologized figures in the history of the American West. His infamous defeat at the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn largely defines his legacy; historical scholarship and popular representations of Custer consistently focus on his “Last Stand.” However, Custer was also a writer with a keen appreciation for arts and culture. This article analyzes Custer’s descriptions of American Indians in his memoir My Life on the Plains (1874). I trace how Custer’s descriptions of Indians and Indian culture clearly reveal a colonial mindset; yet, Custer regularly reflects on Indians and Indian culture with interest, curiosity, and even respect. I analyze these moments of potential commiseration and question whether these moments depart from a colonial mindset. Additionally, I analyze how Custer constructs Indians as the “enemy” and show how these constructions are problematic, yet critical for Custer’s aestheticizing of military conflict. Ultimately, I argue that Custer’s memoir is deserving of increased attention as a literary text and show how to reveal complexities and contradictions with literary and historical implications. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Demonizing the Enemy, Literally: Tolkien, Orcs, and the Sense of the World Wars
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 54; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010054
Received: 17 January 2019 / Revised: 7 March 2019 / Accepted: 9 March 2019 / Published: 12 March 2019
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Abstract
A seemingly inescapable feature of war is the demonization of the enemy, who becomes somehow less human and more deserving of death in times of military strife, which unsurprisingly helps to justify the violence against them. This article looks at the development, character, [...] Read more.
A seemingly inescapable feature of war is the demonization of the enemy, who becomes somehow less human and more deserving of death in times of military strife, which unsurprisingly helps to justify the violence against them. This article looks at the development, character, and role of the orcs—creatures that are in some senses, literally demonized—in J. R. R. Tolkien’s writings in connection with the ideological need to demonize the enemy in World Wars I and II. Yet, in creating an enemy whom the heroes could kill without compunction, Tolkien also betrayed his own sympathy for the devils, perhaps owing to his own experiences as a soldier. This ambiguity pervades Tolkien’s writings, even as his demonized orcs are dispatched by the thousands, thus shaping the sense of warfare and our experience of it according to the desire to simplify, and make more comprehensible, the martial narrative. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Lucy Hutchinson and Margaret Cavendish: Civil War and Enemy Commiseration
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010043
Received: 11 January 2019 / Revised: 19 February 2019 / Accepted: 19 February 2019 / Published: 1 March 2019
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Abstract
Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) and Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673), prolific writers from the seventeenth century, came of age in one of the most difficult times in British history. Blair Worden, an eminent historian, writes, “The political upheaval of the mid-seventeenth century has no parallel in [...] Read more.
Lucy Hutchinson (1620–1681) and Margaret Cavendish (1623–1673), prolific writers from the seventeenth century, came of age in one of the most difficult times in British history. Blair Worden, an eminent historian, writes, “The political upheaval of the mid-seventeenth century has no parallel in English history,” and none of the previous conflicts “has been so far-reaching, or has disrupted so many lives for so long, or has so imprinted itself on the nation’s memory” (2009, p. 1). Hutchinson and her husband, John, were on the side of the parliamentarians in the Civil War while Cavendish and her husband, William, were stout royalists. Instead of showing aggressive stances against their enemies, Hutchinson and Cavendish engaged expansively in a language of empathizing with the enemy in order to lessen the extreme partisanship of that period. Focusing specifically on Hutchinson’s Memoirs of the Life of Colonel John Hutchinson, and Cavendish’s Sociable Letters, among other writings, I argue that during the political impasse which characterized the English Civil War writings, the perspectives advanced by Hutchinson and Cavendish highlight the valuation of human life regardless of political allegiance, augmenting the odds for peaceful co-existence, in which empathy is foregrounded over, and at times alongside, loss and agony as a result of the Civil War aftermath. Suzanne Keen’s groundbreaking research in Empathy and The Novel draws upon examples from the Victorian period to illustrate her understanding of empathy, but she also states that “I feel sure they also pertain to the hopes of authors in earlier periods as well” (2007, p. 142), which is a position taken wholeheartedly in this article. Using a cognitive literary approach where authorial empathic constructions are analyzed, Hutchinson’s and Cavendish’s closely read texts portray an undeniable level of commiseration with the enemy with the goal of abating violence and increasing cooperation and understanding. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Meeting the Enemy in World War I Poetry: Cognitive Dissonance as a Vehicle for Theme
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010030
Received: 28 January 2019 / Revised: 12 February 2019 / Accepted: 13 February 2019 / Published: 19 February 2019
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Abstract
Some World War I poems show an enemy soldier up close. This choice usually proves very effective for expressing the general irony of war, to be sure. However, I submit that showing interaction with the enemy also allows the speaker space to wrestle [...] Read more.
Some World War I poems show an enemy soldier up close. This choice usually proves very effective for expressing the general irony of war, to be sure. However, I submit that showing interaction with the enemy also allows the speaker space to wrestle with internal conflict, guilt, or cognitive dissonance, and that it allows—or even forces—readers to participate in that struggle along with the speaker. While the poets’ writings no doubt had therapeutic effects for the poets themselves, I focus more on the literary effects, specifically arguing that the poems are powerful to us readers since they heighten the personal exposure of the poets’ psyches and since they make us share the dissonance as readers. I consider poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Ford Madox Ford, Herbert Read, and Robert Service. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle The Making of a Terrorist: Imagining Combatants’ Points of View in Troubles Literature
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010027
Received: 11 January 2019 / Revised: 4 February 2019 / Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published: 8 February 2019
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Abstract
This article analyzes portrayals of paramilitary fighters in Irish literature from the Troubles (1968–1998). While the conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholic nationalists has provoked many literary responses, most focus on noncombatants. This article reads Edna O’Brien’s novel House of Splendid Isolation (1994) [...] Read more.
This article analyzes portrayals of paramilitary fighters in Irish literature from the Troubles (1968–1998). While the conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholic nationalists has provoked many literary responses, most focus on noncombatants. This article reads Edna O’Brien’s novel House of Splendid Isolation (1994) and Anne Devlin’s story “Naming the Names” (1986), two texts that succeed in portraying paramilitary characters as complex individuals who are not wholly defined by their violent acts, but each reaches a limit of imagination as well. In House of Splendid Isolation the paramilitary character Mac chooses silence over justifying himself to a hostile audience, and in “Naming the Names” the stream of consciousness style becomes increasingly fragmented, suggesting the paramilitary narrator is on the verge of a breakdown. As a result, both characters remain enigmatic, with aspects of their motives and thinking not fully intelligible. Both texts show that it is a struggle for a noncombatant to understand a paramilitary’s point of view, but these texts make readers want to engage in that struggle. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Enemy and Officers in Emilio Lussu’s Un anno sull’Altipiano
Humanities 2019, 8(1), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010026
Received: 17 December 2018 / Revised: 30 January 2019 / Accepted: 1 February 2019 / Published: 6 February 2019
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Abstract
This essay explores the concept of enemy in Emilio Lussu’s WWI memoir Un anno sull’Altipiano (A Soldier on the Southern Front, 1938). The memoir portrays the conflict on the oft-forgotten Alpine Front, where Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies clashed from 1915 to 1918 in [...] Read more.
This essay explores the concept of enemy in Emilio Lussu’s WWI memoir Un anno sull’Altipiano (A Soldier on the Southern Front, 1938). The memoir portrays the conflict on the oft-forgotten Alpine Front, where Italian and Austro-Hungarian armies clashed from 1915 to 1918 in a series of battles fought at high altitudes. I argue that two crucial dynamics of modern warfare shape the concept of enemy in WWI literature: the impossibility of close-range encounters, which was due to the superiority of defensive firepower, and hatred for one’s own officers, which stemmed from the corrosive environment of the trenches, where the aggressive attitude of high-ranking officers often led hundreds of thousands to pointless death. I show how, in Lussu’s memoir, these dynamics subvert the traditional image of the enemy as imposed by military propaganda, and finally elicit feelings of empathy. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
Open AccessArticle Enemy Encounters in the War Poetry of Wilfred Owen, Keith Douglas, and Randall Jarrell
Humanities 2018, 7(3), 89; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030089
Received: 30 August 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 14 September 2018
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (206 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
While some war poets amplify the concept of anonymity for enemy soldiers, projecting an “us vs. them” mentality, other defining voices of war counter this militaristic impulse to dehumanize the enemy. This pivot toward describing the World Wars more like humanitarian crises than [...] Read more.
While some war poets amplify the concept of anonymity for enemy soldiers, projecting an “us vs. them” mentality, other defining voices of war counter this militaristic impulse to dehumanize the enemy. This pivot toward describing the World Wars more like humanitarian crises than an epic of good and evil is most notable in poems that chronicle both real and imagined close-range encounters between combatants. The poem “Strange Meeting” by British First World War soldier Wilfred Owen uses the vision of two enemy soldiers meeting in hell to reinforce his famous notion that war is something to be pitied. As a result of technological advancements in the Second World War and the increasing distance of combat, the poems “Vergissmeinnicht” and “How to Kill” by British Second World War soldier Keith Douglas wrestle with dehumanizing the enemy and acknowledging their humanity. “Protocols” by American Second World War soldier Randall Jarrell is an imagined view of civilian victims, and is a reckoning with the horrors human beings are capable of committing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
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