Lessons from Sarajevo
A War Stories Primer
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Massachusetts Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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Table of Contents
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This is not a book about war. It is, in point of fact, a book written by someone who doesn’t know a thing about war. When I teach my War Stories class at the University of Massachusetts—as I have now for ten years running—starting with a similar caveat is a matter of clarity, as well as courtesy. I often have a few vets in the room, and usually students with...
1. Case Study: Of Phantom Nations
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In 1866, after his Civil War service as a surgeon at Turner’s Lane Hospital in Philadelphia, the neurologist and novelist S. Weir Mitchell published his first work of fiction in the Atlantic Monthly. This short story, “The Case of George Dedlow,” is generally credited today as the first description in print of the strange neurological phenomenon commonly known as...
2. Thesis: The Crime of the Scene
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The thinking behind this chapter began, in some sense, in early March 1999, after the refugee crisis in Kosovo had begun and when the NATO bombing campaign was only days away. One evening after classes, I attended a teach-in on the crisis. At that event, attended by about a hundred students and professors, a sociologist, Peter I. Rose, was the first to...
3. Victims: The Talking Dead
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Let me begin by clearing up several possible misconceptions. A critique of the sentimental tradition in war representation does not mean that there are no innocent victims, or, for that matter, no acts of criminal aggression. Nor is there some Heisenberg-like principle for war stories, dictating that all observation is necessarily participatory, that representation...
4. Observers: The Real War and the Books
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In one of the most quoted phrases from Whitman’s Civil War notebooks, our national poet remarks that “the real war will never get into the books.” More recently, one of the legends of French documentary cinema made the same point about his own chosen medium, with a bit more specificity. Chris Marker noted that, “As long as there is no olfactory cinema [. . .],...
5. Aggressors: The Beast is Back
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Nations, and the people who form them, differ in the degree to which their memory of history—and the violence that punctuates it—remains active, generative of their collective identity. In the quotation from Ivo Andrić’s Bridge on the Drina, no mention is given of a specific historical moment, yet it is hard to imagine a citizen of the former Yugoslavia who...
Conclusion: Bringing the Stories Home
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In the final seconds of Kony 2012, the son of the video’s director says, “I’m going to be like you, Dad. I’m going to come with you to Africa.” The screen is filled by the image of a total eclipse, the sun just beginning to reappear. Director Jason Russell’s voice-over then intones, “The better world we want is coming. It’s just waiting for us to stop at nothing.”...
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Page Count: 192
Illustrations: 16 illus.
Publication Year: 2013