Fiction, Gender, and Memory
Americans in this century have been largely spared the ravages of war. Though some have fought and died on foreign fronts, few have experienced invasion, occupation, or bombing at home, and so our narratives of war are particularly potent in shaping our imagination, indeed our very memory of war. And since how we imagine (or remember, or forget) war has a great deal to do with our propensity to make war, the question occurs, What is it in our literature of war, in our modern cultural memory of war, that has led us in this century to make war again and again, and to export our organized violence to just about every corner of the world? Impelled by this question, Lynne Hanley here explores the ways in which literature shapes our perceptions of war. The book contains five critical essays on English and American writings about the wars of this century and six short stories which render the experience of war from a feminist perspective. The combination of fiction and nonfiction, unorthodox though it may be, represents Hanley's deliberate effort to open new ways of thinking about war and to challenge the dichotomy between criticism and creative writing. The first essay, an insightful critique of Paul Fussell's The Great War and Modern Memory, takes issue with its focus on the combat experiences of the individual soldier, as though his were the only real human tragedy in the arena of war. Other essays address the writings of Virginia Woolf, Joan Didion, and Doris Lessing--women whose work calls into question the accepted terrain of war literature and explores new territory beyond the men-at-the-front accounts. Hanley's short stories further redefine the combat zone. Reexamining the themes of the critical essays, the stories explore the experiences of women, children, and other noncombatants on the "home front." These narratives displace the soldier as the mouth-piece of war, reminding us that the makers of war are not its only casualties.
Amherst, Mass. : University of Massachusetts Press, ©1991.
1 online resource (151 pages)