"What Sticks to Memory": Vietnam War Representations in American Culture - April 30 - May 3

full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)

46th Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
April 30th - May 3rd
Toronto, Ontario

This year's NeMLA conference is scheduled on the fortieth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War (the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975), which provides an opportunity to reflect on the representation of one of America's most unpopular and violent wars of the twentieth century. In addition to the timing of the conference and the anniversary of the war's end, the site, Toronto, also correlates with a romanticized location of Vietnam War fiction: Many soldier-authors fantasize about dodging the draft and heading to Canada.

In particular, I am struck by the role of collective memory and artistic representation of this highly politicized and casualty-laden war. A plethora of popular film aims to represent the sheer violence and traumatic effects of the war: Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986), Full Metal Jacket (1987), and Jacob's Ladder (1990), while the fiction written by soldiers-turned-authors, such as: Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried (1990), Phillip Caputo's A Rumor of War (1977), and Larry Heinemann's Paco's Story (1986), attempt illustration and explanation of the fear and anxiety of fighting the war and negotiating its battle conditions. Aside from the literature and fiction of the war, we also still live among the veterans, which continue to shape and inform our collective memory of this historical event. This panel investigates the role of memory in literature of soldier-authors and the artistic representation that mainstream adaptations, such as film, has utilized to portray this war to those civilians who did not live the experience. As Tim O'Brien's says of his Vietnam experience, "What sticks to memory, often, are those odd little fragments that have no beginning and no end." What sticks to our collective memory of Vietnam? How do we represent an event that necessitated a new term for trauma after the Vietnam War (PTSD)?

Interested scholars will go to www.nemla.org and follow the instructions there to create a user account, and submit their abstract directly to session (15149).

Abstract proposal deadline: September 30, 2014