"Memorializing War, Destroying Memory" NeMLA 2019
In explaining what inspired 1984, George Orwell wrote that what “frightens [him] much more than bombs” is imagining a future in which “some ruling clique controls not only the future but the past.” The retroactive curation of memory is an oft-undertaken project, practiced in ways as particular as the redaction of a text like Guantanamo Diary, and as absolute as the omission from history of the story told by Chester Himes’ If He Hollers Let Him Go, in which Robert Jones is punished for a crime he did not commit by being forced to enlist in the Army in order to fight, and likely die, in World War II. Paradoxically, World War II is now remembered as “The Good War,” heralded as an example of a time in which America was so clearly in the right. Washington D.C. is full of memorials that have been built to do this sort of work, putting forward a specific way of thinking about the Vietnam War, for example, obfuscating around certain truths in order to tell a more forgiving story. Notably, in times of war the past is also in contention; ISIS has undertaken as part of its project the levelling of buildings and art objects in order to destroy heritage as well as history. This panel will seek to take advantage of the fact that NeMLA’s 2019 Convention is taking place in Washington D.C., inviting papers that take on an interdisciplinary approach to a consideration of the curation/memorialization of the most recent American wars in literature, film, art, and architecture. The destruction of both books and architecture is often a part of war, but how does it feature in the literary, or artistic, imagination? Are memorials and novels that seek to similarly exert control over the past a response, or are they just as complicit?
Please submit through the NeMLA portal:https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/S/17480