The trauma of World War I impacted people from all walks of life and left lifelong scars on many. How people handle the trauma of a global conflict is a highly personal experience with varied responses and long term implications. For many survivors the process of writing down their individual experiences proved to be quite cathartic while others chose to depict the horrors of this conflict in fiction. Whether in fiction or factual account, the literature of The Great War provided future generations with a wealth of information. These works enable us to form a greater understanding of what the world would come to call “The War to End All Wars.”
The treasure trove of written information left to us about this fundamental moment in history is memorabilia we can all cherish. It serves as a reminder that:
“Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it.” -George Santayana, The Life of Reason
Here is a link to Goodreads comprehensive list of “must read” WWI texts:
100 years ago, at the start of 1922, much of the world was still trying to process what had come to pass in the prior eight years: the mobilization to war of Europe, North America, some of the Middle East and Central America, and several nations of Asia, as well as many colonized peoples of South Asia and Africa; the harrowing of the European landscape along the war’s two primary fronts, especially the Western Front: the rise, fall, and redefinition of nation states, boundaries, and empires; the development and activation of killing technologies like the machine gun, the tank, the flame thrower, and poison gas; the slaughter and physical or psychological maiming of some 41 million people; the displacement of approximately 10 million people as refugees; in Armenia, the first major genocide of a genocidal century; and, just as combatants moved toward peace, the death of an estimated 50 million people worldwide in the brutal influenza pandemic of 1918-early 1920.
How did the humans of that time experience and record their experiences in this fundamental moment of modernity? How does our own distance both enable and hamper our understanding of that experience, and what do we learn from The War to End All Wars? I hope our semester is the beginning but not the end of your work considering those questions.