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A War of Words: The Cultural Meanings of the First World War in Britain and Germany

Hewitson, M; (2018) A War of Words: The Cultural Meanings of the First World War in Britain and Germany. European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire , 25 (5) pp. 746-777. 10.1080/13507486.2018.1474181. Green open access

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Abstract

This article examines the relationship between soldiers’ contemporaneous accounts of the First World War and writers’ later representations of combatants’ experiences in novels and other types of ‘war literature’. It argues that post-war literary depictions of such experiences closely resembled soldiers’ own testimony, serving to disseminate and legitimize combatants’ earlier, private revelations of the horrific reality of modern warfare. At the time and afterwards, these accounts of the fighting co-existed with patriotic and heroic descriptions of the war. Here, I investigate the transnational transfer and reception of literary works. Through a comparison of literary treatments of the conflict in Britain and Germany, the article highlights the significance of the outcome of the First World War for its longer-term cultural legacy. The war was described in similar terms in both countries, but criticism of the war effort proved much more divisive in Germany than in the United Kingdom, affecting the ways in which military conflict was remembered and understood.

Type: Article
Title: A War of Words: The Cultural Meanings of the First World War in Britain and Germany
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/13507486.2018.1474181
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/13507486.2018.1474181
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: War literature, novels, plays, memoirs, diaries, letters, propaganda, Germany, Britain, First World War
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10059324
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