Talk will explore ‘How to Write a War’
The ways that an ancient Greek historian and 20th-century British authors wrote about the ‘great’ wars of their time is the focus of the next In the Company of Scholars talk, on Tuesday, Jan. 20.
Emily Greenwood, professor of classics and African American studies, will present “How to Write a War: Thucydides and British First World War Literature” at 4 p.m. in Rm. 119 of the Hall of Graduate Studies, 320 York St. A reception will follow. The event is open to members of the Yale community.
The talk will also be livestreamed on Yale YouTube.
Noting that the talk is taking place in the context of the centenary of the First World War of 1914-1918, Greenwood writes:
“From Homeric epic, the ancient Greek historian Thucydides inherited the construct of a ‘great’ war as simultaneously a theater for glorious action and the source of tragic loss and devastation. … In his account of ‘The War of the Athenians and the Peloponnesians’ (fought intermittently between 431 and 404 B.C.E), Thucydides produced a complex intellectual and emotional critique of the idea of a ‘great’ war and in the process established a series of narrative devices and tropes for writing war that recur in so-called ‘disillusioned’ British memoirs and novels about the First World War. In their preoccupation with the truth about the war as lived experience, these novels and memoirs make a passionate, rhetorical argument for the urgency of fiction in interpreting and understanding the past and pose enduring questions both about the narratability of war and the veridicality of fiction. These same questions underlie Thucydides’ history of another ‘great’ war.”
In the Company of Scholars is sponsored by Lynn Cooley, dean of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.