Horrors of War: The Living, the Undead, and the Battlefield

full name / name of organization: 
Cynthia J. Miller
contact email: 
cynthia_miller@emerson.edu

Call for Contributors (Abstracts 12/20/13; Essays 6/15/14)

Horrors of War: The Living, the Undead, and the Battlefield

War is hell, we tell ourselves, and battlefields are places where the spirits of the dead linger. Supernatural language and imagery—sacred and secular alike—pervades modern depictions of warfare, from Julia Ward Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” to the opening scenes of Gladiator, in which a Roman general commands his men to “unleash Hell.” The “honored dead” of past wars are routinely marshaled, in both pro- and anti-war rhetoric, to pass judgment on the conflicts of the present.

Popular culture, however, routinely makes these metaphors concrete. Supernatural tales of war told in print, on screen, and in other media depict angels, demons, and legions of the undead fighting against—or alongside—human soldiers on the field of battle. Ghostly warships and phantom aircraft carry on their never-to-be-completed missions, and horrors deadlier than any bullet or bomb linger in the dark corners of abandoned fortifications. The spirits, and sometimes the corpses, of dead soldiers return to confront the enemies who killed them, the comrades who betrayed then, or the leaders who sacrificed them without reason.

This volume is intended to explore the deeper significance of such stories: The ways in which they reflect (or challenge) the popular memory of particular wars, and engage with cultural attitudes toward war in general and associated issues such as battlefield heroism, military ethics, and the politics of sacrifice. It will encompass works that take place during wartime (such as the 1943 film A Guy Named Joe, the role-playing game Weird War II, or the graphic novel Graveyard of Empires) as well as those that explore the lingering traces of the past in the present (such James Lee Burke’s In The Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, Steve Barker’s 2007 film Outpost, or the Twilight Zone episode “The Thirty-Fathom Grave”). We seek proposals for intelligent, accessible chapters that explore and critically analyze the intersection of the war and the horror genres in a broad range of media: literature, film, television, comics, graphic novels, gaming, and new media. Proposals for both topical essays and close readings of a single text are welcome.

Please note that this volume is focused on fictional, or explicitly fictionalized, narratives. Essays that treat “real” supernatural apparitions in the history of warfare (such as Drake’s Drum or the “Angel of Mons”), or the culture of ghost stories and “ghost tours” associated with real-world battlefields, are outside the scope of this project.

Some questions to consider:

- How does the presence of unearthly forces on fictional battlefield intersect with twentieth and twenty-first century anxieties over weapons of mass destruction?
- How do stories of the supernatural fit into the larger pattern of cultural memories specific wars, especially when—as in the Civil War and Vietnam—those memories are sharply contested?
- What are some of the complexities that these hybrid texts must address and overcome in order to be effective as cultural commentary?
- In what ways do the dead, in these texts, reinforce (or challenge) traditional ideas about concepts such as honor, heroism, ethical leadership, and just war?
- In what ways do these hybrids revitalize historical narratives for a new generation of audiences, for whom such texts play on other, more familiar synergies and hybrids in their media worlds?

Please send your 500-word abstract to both co-editors, Cindy Miller (cynthia_miller@emerson.edu) and Bow Van Riper (abvanriper@gmail.com).

Publication timetable:

December 20, 2013 – Deadline for Abstracts
January 6, 2014 – Notification of Acceptance Decisions
June 15, 2014 – Chapter Drafts Due
July 31, 2014 – Chapter Revisions Due
September 1, 2014 –Delivery to Publisher

Acceptance will be contingent upon the contributors' ability to meet these deadlines, and to deliver professional-quality work.

cfp categories: 
film_and_television
interdisciplinary
journals_and_collections_of_essays
popular_culture