GSEP 07: "Deepe things out of darkenesse": English and American Representations of Conflicts

“What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? – Only the monstrous anger of the guns.” This is how the English poet Wilfred Owen gave words to the horrors of World War I in 1917. Written under the impression of the trench warfare in Flanders, he called the poem “Anthem for Doomed Youth”: To him and his fellow-soldiers the world had become a place of hopelessness and despair. Armed conflicts seem to be inextricably linked to human nature. They reduce men to mere animals and bring about utter despair; men “grope in the dark without light” (Job 12:25). Yet humans are by nature extremely vulnerable, with neither a crocodile’s plate armour nor an elephant’s tusks, weight and size: War should be essentially foreign to their nature. In spite of their claim to rationality, though, which supposedly distinguishes them from animals, humans continue trying to solve their problems by taking up arms against each other. Representations of conflicts have found their way into various art forms. The Bible, the written cornerstone of the Christian faith – with forgiveness and peacefulness as central tenets – , contains many tales of military engagements, of murder and conquest. Conflicts do not always imply the use of armed force, though. There are also less deadly, though not necessarily less fierce ‘wars’: wars of ideology, for example, or the ‘price wars’ of retailers. The papers in this volume explore a variety of different conflicts and their representations – among them the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan in American films – but also depictions of other kinds of hostilities closer to home, such as the ‘Shakespeare wars’.


Frauke Reitemeier, ed.

"Deepe things out of darkenesse": English and American Representations of Conflicts