How We Are Changed by War: A Study of Letters and Diaries / Edition 1

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The prolonged conflict in Iraq has placed a spotlight on war's transformative effect. Civilians are riveted to events happening halfway around the world, while young soldiers return home from battlefields, after extended periods away, coping with the memories and the mental and emotional changes brought about by such extreme experiences.

How We Are Changed by War examines the changes to Americans during wartime through the medium of their diaries and correspondence, beginning with the colonial period of the early seventeenth century, and ending with diaries and letters from Iraqi War veterans. The book clearly discusses and describes the universal themes of war such as reintegration to society and the horrors of war through private writings regardless of the narrator's historical era. This allows the writers to "speak" to each other across time to reveal a profound commonality of cultural experience.

How We Are Changed by War is a fascinating look at the writings of individuals who served their military in different eras, and a great example of how history is shaped by both memory and experience.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780415873116
  • Publisher: Taylor & Francis
  • Publication date: 3/5/2010
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 0.60 (w) x 0.90 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Diana C. Gill is an independent scholar with a PhD in English from the University of Mississippi at Oxford.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

Awareness and Selfhood

Self and Society

War and the Use of Stories

Wartime Function of Letters and Diaries

Limitations to Bearing Witness

1 The Metes and Bounds of Narrative and Self 19

Language and Limits of Narrative Identity

Cultural Narrative, Identity, and a Common Reality

Self-Narrative and Identity

Narrative of Self and Limits of Genre

The Transmission of a Cultural Narrative

2 An Opportunity for Change: War and Ambition 37

The Subtext of Traumatic Self-Narrative

The Interdependence of Self and Group

Seduction by a Narrative Past

Expectations, Deconstructions, and Glamour


3 Conversion 71

Whetting the War Appetite: Myths and Archetypes

The Death of die Civilian Self

A Conflict-Oriented Realignment of Boundaries

4 A Growing Estrangement 114

Disillusionment and Bearing Witness

Divisive Viewpoints

An Invalidation of Sacrifices

The Betrayal of Performance

A Confusion of Roles

5 The Complexity of Spectatorship 147

A Shift in Performance Parameters

Forced Behind the Spotlights: "Seeing"

Forced Behind the Spotlights: "Being"

A Place for the Civilian on the Wartime Stage

6 Eye of the Storm 194

The Other Side of War

Alone in a Patriotic Crowd

Ripping Away of the Home Front

7 A Continuing Aftermath 237

Challenges to Veteran Reintegration

Cultural Evolution by War Confessions

Cultural Evolution by War Repression

Redemption in the Wilderness

Bibliography 275

Index 287

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