In the Company of Scholars: "How to Write a War: Thucydides and the Literature of WWI"

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YaleUniversity
Published at : 03 Dec 2020
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In the Company of Scholars Lecture Series: "How to Write a War: Thucydides and the Literature of the First World War"

'From Homeric epic the ancient Greek historian Thucydides inherited the construct of a ‘great’ war as simultaneously a theatre for glorious action and the source of tragic loss and devastation. In the context of the centenary of the First World War of 1914-1918, Emily Greenwood will compare Thucydides’ idea of the ‘great’ war with the figure of the ‘great’ war in British prose fiction and memoirs of the First World War. In his account of The War of the Athenians and the Peloponnesians (fought intermittently between 431 and 404 BCE), Thucydides produced a complex intellectual and emotional critique of the idea of a ‘great’ war and in the process established a series of narrative devices and tropes for writing war that recur in so-called ‘disillusioned’ British memoirs and novels about the First World War. In their preoccupation with the truth about the war as lived experience, these novels and memoirs make a passionate, rhetorical argument for the urgency of fiction in interpreting and understanding the past and pose enduring questions both about the narratability of war and the veridicality of fiction. These same questions underlie Thucydides’ history of another ‘great’ war.'
ThucydidesFirst World WarHomeric Epic

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