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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 are laying the ground for a return to Homeric memory, whether in History Television, the digital Memory Project, or the interactive war museum. Of interest to historians, classicists, media and digital theorists, literary scholars, museologists, and archivists, 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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David Williams is professor of English at the University of Manitoba, and the author of four critical books: Media, Memory, and the First World War; Imagined Nations: Reflections on Media in Canadian Fiction; Confessional Fictions: A Portrait of the Artist in the Canadian Novel; and Faulkner's Women: The Myth and the Muse. He is also the author of three novels: The Burning Wood; The River Horsemen; Eye of the Father.Review:
"... offers an important and original thesis: namely, that the invention of cinema less than two decades before the outbreak of the Great War, profoundly altered the way that Western cultures experience time and thus the way in which they collectively remember ... [T]ruly groundbreaking analysis." Modern Fiction Studies
"The treatment of films and literary works is stunning, as are most of Williams' critical readings of various memory works, And one of his central observations--that the traditional, literate medium enacted a grammatical appropriation of the new cinematic one--is important and insightful." Southern Communication Journal
"... challenge[s] Paul Fussell's conclusions in his influential book The Great War and Modern Memory (1975). Because of his impeccable scholarship, Williams does so with remarkable ease, and, in doing so, broadens our understanding and appreciation of both modern memory and modernism." Col. Keith Dickson, Joint Forces Staff College
"Imagined Nations: Reflections on Media in Canadian Fiction (2003), and [this book] form a diptych. Together, these two works comprise the most sustained and convincing attempt by any scholar to apply the spatial and temporal concepts of Harold Innis and Marshall McLuhan in Canadian literature and culture." University of Toronto Quarterly
"This book makes important additions to the trajectory of research that maps memory in the context of the First World War. Williams extends the boundaries of his subject to accommodate the vast interests of researchers, including those who specialize in military history, media theory, classicism and literature." Canadian Military History
"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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