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Media, Memory, and the First World War

Overview

Why does the Great War seem part of modern memory when its rituals of mourning and remembrance were traditional, romantic, even classical?

In this highly original history of memory, David Williams shows how classic Great War literature, including work by Remarque, Owen, Sassoon, and Harrison, was symptomatic of a cultural crisis brought on by the advent of cinema. He argues that images from Geoffrey Malins' hugely popular war film The Battle of the Somme (1916) collapsed social,...

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Media, Memory, and the First World War

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Overview

Why does the Great War seem part of modern memory when its rituals of mourning and remembrance were traditional, romantic, even classical?

In this highly original history of memory, David Williams shows how classic Great War literature, including work by Remarque, Owen, Sassoon, and Harrison, was symptomatic of a cultural crisis brought on by the advent of cinema. He argues that images from Geoffrey Malins' hugely popular war film The Battle of the Somme (1916) collapsed social, temporal, and spatial boundaries, giving film a new cultural legitimacy, while the appearance of writings based on cinematic forms of remembering marked a crucial transition from a verbal to a visual culture. By contrast, today's digital media, whether in History Television, the digital Memory Project, or the interactive war museum, are laying the ground for a return to Homeric memory.

Media, Memory, and the First World War is a comparative study that shows how the dominant mode of communication in a popular culture - from oral traditions to digital media - shapes the structure of memory within that culture.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A brilliant book that deserves a large readership because it considers deep matters in an impressively intelligent way … This is a stunning work of imagination at so many levels - the reader is challenged by its speculative links and suggestions." Winnipeg Free Press

"A fascinating interdisciplinary approach to the construction of memory of the Great World War in diverse media. Williams' work should prove valuable to university students and professional scholars engaged in the history of memory from a variety of approaches and fields. Williams admirably expands our source base beyond the traditionally studied Anglo-American war narrative and he provides an especially engaging analysis of lesser-known sites of Canadian memory. Williams' ideas point toward new directions and context of scholarship on memory. His study is most welcome, as it challenges us to expand our thinking about memory through more diverse media into the contemporary age." Jason Crouthamel, Grand Valley State University

"The author's inspiring overall argument and the thorough theoretical underpinning thereof, his in-depth analysis of cultural and media artefacts, and his creative treatment of a remarkably broad range of sources from different media and times make the reading of this book an enlightening experience for scholars in a wide variety of disciplines." Leen Engelen, Media & Design Academy (KHLim), Catholic University Leuven

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Product Details

Meet the Author


David Williams is professor of English, St. Paul's College, University of Manitoba, and the author of Imagined Nations: Reflections on Media in Canadian Fiction.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 3

Part 1 Memory and Media

1 Modern Memory 17

2 Mediated Memory 33

Part 2 Classical Memory: Orality and Literacy

3 Oral Memory and the Anger of Achilleus 53

4 Scripts of Empire: Remembering Virgil in Barometer Rising 72

Part 3 The End of the Book and the Beginning of Cinema

5 Cinematic Memory in Owen, Remarque, and Harrison 103

6 "Spectral Images": The Double Vision of Siegfried Sassoon 138

Part 4 Photo / Play: Seeing Time and (Hearing) Relativity

7 Photographic Memory: "A Force of Interruption" in The Wars 161

8 A Play of Light: Dramatizing Relativity in R. H. Thomson's The Lost Boys 182

Part 5 Virtual Presences: History in the Electronic Age

9 Electronic Memory: "A New Homeric Mode" on History Television 205

10 Sound Bytes in the Archive and the Museum 237

Conclusion 269

Notes 285

Works Cited 297

Index 307

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