Writing After War: American War Fiction from Realism to Postmodernism

Writing After War: American War Fiction from Realism to Postmodernism

by John Limon
     
 

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In Writing After War, John Limon develops a theory of the relationship of war in general to literature in general, in order to make sense of American literary history in particular. Applying the work of war theorists Carl von Clausewitz and Elaine Scarry, John Limon argues that The Iliad inaugurates Western literature on the failure of war to be duel-like, to have

Overview

In Writing After War, John Limon develops a theory of the relationship of war in general to literature in general, in order to make sense of American literary history in particular. Applying the work of war theorists Carl von Clausewitz and Elaine Scarry, John Limon argues that The Iliad inaugurates Western literature on the failure of war to be duel-like, to have a beautiful form. War's failure is literature's justification.

American literary history is demarcated by wars, as if literary epochs, like the history of literature itself, required bloodshed to commence. But in chapters on periods of literary history from realism, generally taken to be a product of the Civil War, through modernism, usually assumed to be a prediction or result of the Great War, up to postmodernism which followed World War II and spanned Vietnam, Limon argues that, despite the looming presence of war in American history, the techniques that define these periods are essentially ways of not writing war.

From James and Twain, through Fitzgerald, Faulkner, and even Hemingway, to Pynchon, our national literary history is not hopelessly masculinist, Limon argues. Instead, it arrives naturally at Bobbie Ann Mason and Maxine Hong Kingston. Kingston brings the discussion full circle: The Woman Warrior, like The Iliad, appears to condemn the fall from duel to war that is literature's endless opening.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Limon's book is extraordinarily good. It is an important book, not only for students of American literature but for anyone concerned with the methodology and effective practice of cultural studies. The writing is, throughout, elegant, witty, and transparently accessible."—Warner Berthoff, Harvard University

"Superb: it offers an original and valuable reconceptualization of a very old problem (the relations between literature and war), it makes brilliant applications of contemporary literary theory, it offers fresh, formidable interpretations of almost every fictional text it mentions, and is strikingly writte and argued. I'm going to recommend it highly and widely."—Jay Watson, University of Mississippi

"The attractive feature of this book is the way it broaches a whole series of interesting and unusual issues, and focuses on many of the familiar American writers from a new perspective."—Journal of American Studies

"...Limon offers critical readings of an impressively wide range of authors. He is able to move with grace and aplomb between writers as different as Louisa May Alcott and Luce Irigaray....Writing After War is a thoughtful, learned interpretation of postwar American writing, and it makes a valuable contribution to the studies of American literature, aesthetics, and war."—CLIO

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195087598
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
07/28/1994
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.25(w) x 9.18(h) x 0.70(d)

Meet the Author

John Limon is Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Williams College. He is the author of The Place of Fiction in the Time of Science (1990).

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