Bear With Me While I Make A Taylor Swift Reference

I’ve been thinking about what war and pandemic mean together as I’m working on my Porter essay, as well as thinking on my own personal experience with the pandemic. For me, much of 2020 is set to the soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s album, folklore. If you aren’t familiar with the album, I want to encourage you to listen to her song, epiphany. It explores the parallels between war and illness, and reminds me of our own conversations.

Keep your helmet, keep your life, son
Just a flesh wound, here’s your rifle
Crawling up the beaches now
“Sir, I think he’s bleeding out”
And some things you just can’t speak about

With you I serve, with you I fall down, down
Watch you breathe in, watch you breathing out, out

Something med school did not cover
Someone’s daughter, someone’s mother
Holds your hand through plastic now
“Doc, I think she’s crashing out”
And some things you just can’t speak about

Only twenty minutes to sleep
But you dream of some epiphany
Just one single glimpse of relief
To make some sense of what you’ve seen

With you I serve, with you I fall down, down (Down)
Watch you breathe in, watch you breathing out, out
With you I serve (With you I serve), with you I fall down (Down), down (Down)
Watch you breathe in (Watch you breathe in), watch you breathing out (Out), out (Out)

Only twenty minutes to sleep
But you dream of some epiphany
Just one single glimpse of relief
To make some sense of what you’ve seen

It also reminds me of the conversations we didn’t quite have. For those of you in the 12:30 section, I want you to recall Carleigh’s reaction when Professor Scanlon brought up March of 2020. And how Professor Scanlon apologized to her for even bringing it up. “Some things you just can’t speak about.” I find that at the end of this class, this song adds something valuable to my own modern interpretation of events not yet that outdated. Honestly, I could parse the ways this song relates to our class conversations for hours, but I’ll spare you that.

And now, because I’ve already namedropped Carleigh once in this post, I’m going to do it again. Sorry, Carleigh. She also mentioned in our final class today how her view of truth in literature has shifted, and how several of the works in this class have asked us whether objective truth is really more important than personal truth. To that end, I’d like to share with you part of the introduction to this album –

“A tale that becomes folklore is one that is passed down and whispered around. Sometimes even sung about. The lines between fantasy and reality blur and the boundaries between truth and fiction become almost indiscernible. Speculation, over time, becomes fact. Myths, ghost stories, and fables. Fairytales and parables. Gossip and legend. Someone’s secrets written in the sky for all to behold.”

I don’t think it matters to me what was “true.” Pale Horse, Pale Rider is a work of fiction, but I think it is far more honest to Porter’s experience than if some omnipresent observer handed us a list of events in her life from before her experience with the flu through her recovery. Why should truth in that form be any more true than what Porter knows of her life?

Anyways, this post is my way of fighting off the urge to write about Taylor Swift in my Porter essay. Thanks for reading!

Kimber’s Reading Questions for March 29th

  1. Daly’s foreword to this story recalls for the reader William Sherman’s labeling of war as hell, and posits that there is a second hell, a less physical hell, and this completes the title in a sense – “Not Only War is Hell.” Daly does not explicitly define this second hell, saying only that it is “a purgatory for the mind, for the spirit, for the soul of men.” Based on what we’ve read thus far, expand on what Daly indicated was a second hell.
  2. The text has used terms like “battle” and “fight” when describing civil rights related events and issues. How do you read this? How does Daly compare our standard idea of war to this second war back home? And as a follow-up that may be more apt to address after we’ve finished the novel – does he assign more gravity to one war than the other?
  3. With my last question I want to borrow one Professor Scanlon asked of us. When we read A Farewell to Arms, we were asked if we thought it was a war story or a love story. I was initially tempted to ask the same question of this novel upon Miriam’s introduction, but I think there is a far more relevant classification to be made here. Is Not Only War a novel about war or a novel about race? With the main storyline seeming to center on two men about to go to war but the actual text littered not only with indirect references to, but direct focus on the “damned race prejudice”, “race question”, and “race problem” from nearly every character we’ve met thus far, it is impossible to not recognize those as the points the novel considers with most sincerity. And as I’ve borrowed a question, I will also borrow a disclaimer: “Note: of course all definitions and categories are by nature exclusionary, and so of course this is a perverse writing prompt. Acknowledged, okay?”

The kind of war story that isn’t about war after all

I was writing my short essay and looked at Hemingway’s unwritten endings. He almost wrote “…you have to stop a story. You stop it at the end of whatever it is you were writing about.” This may not be the highest degree of textual analysis, but to me this answers with extreme clarity what exactly Hemingway was writing about. Or at least what he meant to write about, even if he ended up with a highly regarded war novel. His story ended when Catherine died, and Henry and Catherine ended. What else could he have been writing about?

Anyways, I just wanted to share that quote with y’all and see if it impacted the way anyone else might see A Farewell to Arms – also if anyone thinks it may be neither? I think the question is often a love story OR a war story, and I certainly don’t think this is a war story, but it doesn’t feel so much like a love story to me either. I can’t think of better label though – anyone got anything?

Kimber Foreman’s report on the podcast ‘Women’s lives on the Home Front’

I listened to Women’s Lives on the Home Front, a BBC special episode of Women’s Hour. This episode is a behind-the-scenes look at the start of a four year broadcast drama on Radio 4 called Home Front. Home Front itself is a radio drama broadcast designed to look at the lives of “people normally hidden from history” during World War One, – indicating the stories of women and working-class people – and this behind the scenes look is a conversation with creators and actors about the historical details they used to craft their characters.

This delves into an array of topics, including the rapid militarization of a town called Folkstone and their early refugee acceptance, how women supported or rejected British participation in the war, what women felt their role in the war was, how non-wartime issues were affected by the outbreak of war, how modern issues like sexual violence were treated (and ignored) at this time, and even a little myth-busting. Apparently it’s been commonly spread that combatants believed they’d be home by Christmas, but when one of the writers did a little historian sleuthing, he found that it was only a common idea among the Germans! They were so confident in their military capabilities they thought they’d be able to outdo their opponents in no time.

This podcast does well in covering a lot of ground quite quickly as well as introducing some topics not often brought to the forefront of war conversations, but in moving through topics so rapidly I think some opportunity for detail was lost. This episode feels like the beginning of a conversation, but because it isn’t part of a larger series these topics don’t get explored beyond the surface level introductions in this episode. That said, I do think there’s value in these surface level introductions. When lessons on World War One intersect with women’s suffrage the conversation often starts and ends with “women replaced men in factory jobs and saw increased employment before being forced back home after the war”, but this introduces the point that women’s suffrage was already a movement before the war, and as such the war had an impact on an already existing ideology and group of advocates. The women’s suffrage movement was split into many groups who disagreed on whether or not to support the war, how exactly to support the war, how exactly to resist the war, and what it may mean for the suffrage of women – or if they should even be considering women’s suffrage during war time. While this topic could be an hour long podcast episode on its own, I’d rather have the three minutes of education on it than the zero minutes I had before listening.

In addition to discussions with the writers on the research they did to create the show, this episode also includes clips from the Radio 4 broadcast, which allows the actors to talk about the beliefs they included in their character creation – this connects really well with our class, and how we parse out wartime ideas through the frame of specific characters. It also provides an interesting disconnect – we often discuss women in our course, but our focus has been on upper class women like those in the ambulance brigades as opposed to those working at home.

Overall, I think this episode could stand to be two or three times its current length, but there is certainly still much to be gained from the interviews. The focus on beliefs and experiences of people less glorified by common historical accounts is not only interesting in itself, but interesting in the ways it intersects with our classroom conversations on the women’s experience during the war.