- An allen Fronten: Kriege und politische Konflikte in Kinder- und Jugendmedienby Ingrid Tomkowiak
Every day, television news feature reports on violent conflicts, civil and international wars. Children and young adults are also always among the victims of these confrontations, a topic literature for children and YA often addresses and attempts to come to terms with.
The representation of wars and conflicts in children’s and YA literature is at the heart of this collection of essays. Films and computer games as well as autobiographical accounts from around the world are investigated alongside novels, picture books, and graphic novels to analyze “different narratives of war and political conflicts” (9). The results are presented in three sections: “War as topos,” “Images of war,” and “War history/War stories.” They explore the various functions of space and place, the visual staging of wars, as well as narrative strategies used to convey war experiences.
In the introductory essay, Gabriele von Glasenapp identifies three phases for the representation of war in Western literature: The Pro-War-Phase (1870–1945) is closely linked to contemporary wars, inspired by salutary promise, and ends with WWII. This enthusiasm is followed by a retrospective phase, which eventually leads to the more critical representations taking hold in the 1970s: strongly individualized one the one hand or parabolic narratives on the other denounce war as the “ultimate perversion of existence” (25).
Caroline Roeder’s contribution “Childhood landscape as warscape” heads the section “War as topos.” Roeder analyses the symbolic coding of landscapes and shows how intertextual references can open up spaces of refuge. Christina Ulm illustrates how the space of a hermetic island can gain metaphorical meaning and serve to stage the conflict between “savage” and “civilized.” Following these spatial takes on the symbolic representations of conflict, Susanne Riegler and Gabriele Scherer demonstrate how war is transformed into a “metalinguistic metaphor” in their essay “Grammar is a gentle song.”
The section “Images of war” begins with a piece by Mareile Oetken, who uncovers the subversive potential of picture books: As the title “Images of (Un-)Masking” suggests, she argues that pictures deconstruct representations of power. Ute Dettmar takes a closer look at the computer-animated films “A Bug’s Life” and “Antz,” which cleverly expose the ideological mechanisms behind war. She demonstrates how anthropomorphized animals are used to illustrate the opposition between individual and collective, and how film-specific techniques work to create characters, to build complexity, and to allow for ambiguity. Felix Giesa reads American graphic novels as indicative of the state of soul of U.S.-Americans [End Page 90]following 9/11: With the initial conviction of invincibility slowly eroding, images no longer celebrate heroism or “salvation” after 2005; instead, they envision a prolonging of the suffering, to the point of “painlessness” (152). Benjamin Beil argues that the simulated and fictive images of war generated by computer games are strongly influenced by the war imagery disseminated by the media. Even though computer games are generally sophisticated enough to critically reflect these intermedial connections, most games opt for uncritical representations and exploit the war-inherent special-effects factor.
In the first essay of the third section, “War history / war stories,” Bettina Heck compares different fictional and factual representations of the epic Battle of Teutoburg Forest, which pitched Germanic tribes against the Romans in 9 CE. Sebastian Schmideler focuses on the military propaganda of WWI, more especially on the related “literary […] mobilization” (216) disseminated via flyers and booklets; he comes to the conclusion that indoctrination permeated all levels and covered the entire oratorical spectrum, from silver-tongued patronizing to aggressive rhetoric. In a close reading of Thea von Harbou’s novels, Andre Kagelmann shows how the motto of “delightful instruction” was meant to teach women and children the “proper” attitude towards war. Rüdiger Steinlein contrasts a Fascist text and one of the few leftist-pacifist...