Bearing Witness

Bearing Witness: Perspectives on War and Peace from the Arts and Humanities

Sherrill Grace
Patrick Imbert
Tiffany Johnstone
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Bearing Witness
    Book Description:

    As the centenary of the Great War approaches, citizens worldwide are reflecting on the history, trauma, and losses of a war-torn twentieth century. It is in remembering past wars that we are at once confronted with the profound horror and suffering of armed conflict and the increasing elusiveness of peace. The contributors to Bearing Witness do not presume to resolve these troubling questions, but provoke new kinds of reflection. They explore literature, the arts, history, language, and popular culture to move beyond the language of rhetoric and commemoration provided by politicians and the military. Adding nuance to discussions of war and peace, this collection probes the understanding and insight created in the works of musicians, dramatists, poets, painters, photographers, and novelists, to provide a complex view of the ways in which war is waged, witnessed, and remembered. A compelling and informative collection, Bearing Witness sheds new light on the impact of war and the power of suffering, heroism and memory, to expose the human roots of violence and compassion. Contributors include Heribert Adam (Simon Fraser University), Laura Brandon (Carleton University), Mireille Calle-Gruber (Université La Sorbonne Nouvelle), Janet Danielson (Simon Fraser University), Sandra Djwa (emeritus, Simon Fraser University), Alan Filewod (University of Guelph), Sherrill Grace (University of British Columbia), Patrick Imbert (University of Ottawa), Tiffany Johnstone (PhD Candidate, University of British Columbia), Martin Löschnigg (Graz University), Lauren Lydic (PhD, University of Toronto), Conny Steenman Marcusse (Netherlands), Jonathan Vance (University of Western Ontario), Aritha van Herk (University of Calgary), Peter C. van Wyck (Concordia University), Christl Verduyn (Mount Allison University), and Anne Wheeler (filmmaker).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8763-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  6. Preface: Bearing Witness
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. For What? An Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    The inspiration guiding this volume is twofold. In a practical sense, these essays emerged from the 2008 annual symposium of the Royal Society of Canada; in a creative sense, they represent a selection of responses to issues surrounding war and peace as these activities are perceived – and challenged – by scholars in the humanities and by artists. The 2008 symposium, called “The Cultures of War and Peace/Les cultures de la guerre et de la paix,” was organized by Academy I of the RSC, the Academy devoted to Arts and Humanities, and the theme was chosen both for its urgent...

  8. PART I Exploring the Roots of War:: Performance, History, Poetry, and Language
    • 1 Warplay: Spectacle, Performance, and (Dis)Simulation of Combat
      (pp. 17-27)

      As I write these words, I hear the sounds of combat, of yelling men, explosions, and machine gun fire. My fifteen-year-old son is playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on his Xbox. In this game he takes the part of an American soldier equipped with realistic weapons in an online multiplayer scenario of urban combat. He’s having the time of his life. It is, he tells me, the best game ever.

      Play rehearses life, and like all rehearsals, never really ends; life must always need to be rehearsed. If this simple proposition is defensible, it suggests that playing war...

    • 2 Understanding the Motivation to Enlist
      (pp. 28-40)

      Why We Fight was the title given to a seven-part film series commissioned by the US government between 1942 and 1945 as a way to explain to Americans the issues of the Second World War. The decision to create this series arose from a belief that the majority of Americans were not fully aware of the philosophical issues involved in the war; they needed to be convinced of the dangers of isolationism and the necessity of joining the crusade against fascism. Directed by Frank Capra, who had already made a name for himself as a populist filmmaker with such successes...

    • 3 Canadian Poets on War
      (pp. 41-52)

      The lives of E.J. Pratt (1882–1964), F.R. Scott (1899–1985), and P.K. Page (1916–2010) spanned two world wars: born seventeen years apart, each represents nearly a generation. To judge by J.W. Garvin’s Canadian Poets of the Great War, the Canadian cultural attitude at the start of the First World War was similar to that described in Mark Girouard’s study of English culture, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman.¹ In Garvin’s anthology, the Great War is presented as a crusade and poems depict the young soldiers as knights, Galahads, or Lancelots.Why, we might ask, other than...

    • 4 Metaphor, Metalepsis, and the Colonial Library: Deconstructing Inyenzi and Ubuhake Metaphors in Gil Courtemanche’s A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali and Julien Pierce’s Speak, Rwanda
      (pp. 53-66)

      Since the 1994 itsembabatutsi (genocide against the Tutsi¹), in which over 800,000 Rwandans were murdered,² cultural discourses around the world and in all media have frequently reiterated the Kinyarwanda metaphor inyenzi (cockroaches). Although this trope can be traced to 1960s Rwanda – when the pro-Tutsi FPR (Front patriotique rwandais-Rwandan Patriotic Front) employed it as a political self-designation³ – global cultural discourses on the Rwandan Genocide focus almost exclusively on “inyenzi” as wielded by the RTLM (Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines) and Kangura (Wake Up) to incite violence. Often incorporating international human rights concerns, these cultural discourses reiterate the cockroach...

  9. PART II Bearing Witness to War and Peace:: The Vocabularies of Literature, Art, and Photography
    • 5 The Georgics of War and Peace: Following Claude Simon, Nobel laureate
      (pp. 69-78)

      What place and what roles for literature, what place and roles for art in the cultures of war and peace?

      I entitle this intervention “The Georgics of War and Peace” because I want to inscribe myself from the very start in the direction pointed out by the wording of the Symposium The Cultures of War and Peace, and take all the consequences. Namely, considering war as one cultural form of that which action is, and not some uncontrolled or uncivilized act; considering also that there are – we know it, idioms show it to us – the art of war,...

    • 6 “Expressionist – Artillerist”: “Poet” and “Soldier” as Conflicting Role Models in German Avant-Garde Poetry from the First World War
      (pp. 79-92)

      In August 1914, enthusiasm for a war that would be over by Christmas was widespread. In Germany, Thomas Mann, otherwise renowned as the nation’s great literary ironist, hailed the patriotic fervour shown by the writers with unequivocal appreciation: “Wie die Herzen der Dichter sogleich in Flammen standen, als jetzt Krieg wurde!” (How the hearts of the poets have been inflamed immediately now that war has broken out!).¹ Gerhart Hauptmann, Germany’s Nobel Prize winner of 1912, who had distanced himself from the Wilhelmine state through his critical pre-war plays, now supported the nation’s war efforts with patriotic poems.² The war, it...

    • 7 Above or Below Ground? Depicting Corpses in First and Second World War Official Canadian War Art
      (pp. 93-106)

      More than 60,000 Canadians died during the First World War (1914–18), ten per cent of those who enlisted. More than 150,000 were injured. Over one million Canadians served between 1939 and 1945; 45,000 of them died, and 55,000 suffered injuries in a conflict marked by unprecedented violence on both sides. While a significant number of Canadian artworks from these wars depict the destruction meted out on the built, manufactured, and natural environments, the subject of physical violence is rare. Nonetheless, whether the soldiers, airmen, or sailors were from the allied or combatant sides of the conflicts, a survey of...

    • 8 Bearing Witness and Cultural Memory: The Wreckage, Burning Vision, and War in the Pacific
      (pp. 107-120)

      Over the past thirty years, and with increasing frequency, Canadian writers, filmmakers, and playwrights have assumed the task of recreating the experiences of Canadians in the Second World War. Canadians are by no means unique in this work of cultural memory and the recreation of the past; artists, historians, and philosophers from many of the countries involved in that global war have revisited it, tried to make sense of the sheer senselessness of many events, and yet stubbornly insisted that later generations must remember and must try to understand. For me, however, since my subject is literature and the arts,...

    • 9 Emmy Andriesse, Dutch Wartime Photographer: The Hunger Winter of 1945
      (pp. 121-144)

      Dutch photographer Emmy Andriesse’s (1914–1953) wartime photograph, Boy with a Pan (“Jongen met het pannetje” in Dutch, see fig. 9.1 on page 128), has become an iconic image of life under Nazi occupation during the “Hunger Winter” of 1944–45. A small, thin boy standing alone and forlorn in an Amsterdam street clasps an empty tin, in case food might be found at one of the soup kitchens. Boy with a Pan is one of hundreds of photographs Andriesse took as a member of the clandestine group that came to be known as “The Underground Photographers” (De Ondergedoken Camera)....

  10. PART III Taking Some Lessons from History:: Rhetoric, Ethics, and the Search for Peace
    • 10 Underlining the Lies Surrounding the “Holy War” and “Infinite Justice”
      (pp. 147-162)

      The only undeniable information one can have access to is that they were living people, and now they are dead. Apart from this information, there is an accumulation of discursive constructions in which the deaths of people are used in media images and political discourses in order to endorse a given logic or strategy in the battle for recognition and power. However, the statement of passage from life to death is more than a referential base. It is a way of reinstating an ethic of recognizing the Other. It traces a path towards self-reflection that demands new and different solutions....

    • 11 Comparing South Africa’s Negotiated Settlement with Elusive Peacemaking in Israel/Palestine
      (pp. 163-173)

      On the Israeli/Palestinian issue one can adopt essentially three approaches. The Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel maintains that “As a Jew I see my role as a … defender of Israel. I defend even her mistakes.”¹ The British philosopher Ted Honderich argues the same blind loyalty for the Palestinian cause, advocating “liberation-terrorism to get freedom and power for a people when it is clear that nothing else will get it for them.”² Neither of the two will ever mention the atrocities committed by his adopted side.Wiesel explicitly says: “Either speak up in praise, or keep silent.”³ A preferred third approach avoids...

    • 12 Northern War Stories: The Dene, the Archive, and Canada’s Atomic Modernity
      (pp. 174-186)

      Great Bear Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories is a vast inland sea; nearly 31,000 square kilometers carved into barely fathomable depths sometime in the late Pleistocene. On the far eastern shore, where no one lives today, just below where the tree-line cuts across the immense glacial body of the lake, at the far end of what is now called McTavish Arm, buttressed in ancient granites by the very western edge of the Precambrian Shield, lies Port Radium. This land, home to the Sahtú Dene for millennia, is also a site of considerable significance to Canada’s atomic history. A point of...

  11. PART IV For What?: Artists’ Reflections on Film, Poetry, and Music
    • 13 Perspectives on War
      (pp. 189-203)

      I grew up in a household where you did not talk of war. My father did not attend reunions or glory in the telling of stories about his time spent in her Majesty’s service. From the time I knew my alphabet I knew he had an OBE, which was a medal given to him by the King of England because he was a hero. What he had done to deserve this honor I didn’t know. Every Christmas, dozens of cards would arrive from the United Kingdom full of words of gratitude and deep affection – unlike any words uttered by...

    • 14 On Active Service, and Let Us Wake From This Dream: A Poem and a String Quartet
      (pp. 204-212)

      The horrors of war and the longing for peace cannot be fully expressed in words: music has the capacity both to evoke deep emotion in individuals and to meld these individual responses into a communal expression, providing a channel for the sharing of intentions, a “human technology for crossing the solipsistic gulf.”¹ It was fitting, therefore, for music to be part of a symposium on The Cultures of War and Peace, voicing the call for a culture of peace.

      In early November 2007, I was commissioned to write a new string quartet for the 2008 Royal Society of Canada Academy...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 213-244)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-260)
  14. Contributors
    (pp. 261-266)
  15. Index
    (pp. 267-272)