Professor Guillaume Piketty on "From Great Expectations to Disillusions. The Free French in France, 1944-1945".
From June 1940 to the end of July 1943, around 74,500 French women and men assembled around General de Gaulle, or were injured or killed when trying to join him. During the summer 1944, the survivors among these Free French started to go back to France from exile. After experiencing some strong and usually positive emotions when discovering France again, they also experienced some bittersweet first encounters with their fellow countrymen, rivalries with the interior Resistance and, for many of them, bloody fighting against the Germans. The next step consisted in attempting to rebuild a "normal" personal and social life. Very often, these various experiences led to misunderstandings, disillusions, and bitterness.
Professor of History at Sciences Po in Paris, Guillaume of History at Sciences Po in Paris, Guillaume Piketty is currently a Senior Visiting Research Associate to the MEHRC and an Associate Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford. From 2010 to 2012, he was a Visiting Research Scholar at Yale University. His research focuses on the social and cultural history of WWII in France and in Europe, and, more broadly, on war, resistance, and society during the 20thcentury.In particular, he works on the day-to-day experience of the Free French during WW2. His study is primarily based on the analysis of intimate writings, memoirs, and testimonies. Drawing on his previous research about the experience of war, he also works on "War, Sensibility and Emotions".
Dr. Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg on "On the Avoidance of War Writing: Two Strategies of Evasive Presentation – Scepticism and Sublimity."
In her article "Not Writing about War" (2012), Kate McLoughlin suggests that we may usefully mobilize Kant's notion of the sublime to explain, at least partly, the very particular strategy whereby certain writers write about war by carefully not writing about it. According to McLoughlin: "It is therefore possible to posit an 'apophatic' mode of war writing: the mode of conveying combat through negation." While I believe McLoughlin's intuition is entirely correct, I would like to supplement the Kantian element with the Cavellian notion of "avoidance", extracted from Cavell's famous essay on King Lear, "The Avoidance of Love". My empirical example will be the current Danish and Nordic literary scene, in which one can find a conspicuous and rather peculiar absence of literary writing on the on-going wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Since Denmark has not been at war since 1864, and since the Danish engagement in the Bush-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been intensely debated since 2003, not least by a host of our best authors, why is it that no serious or proper author has written any substantial work on these wars? My - arguable – twofold claim is, that this particular mode of evasion or withholding of writing differs from that identified by McLoughlin, and that we may fruitfully enlist Cavell's notion of avoidance to attempt to explain this other mode of non-writing about warfare.
Dr Mikkel Bruun Zangenberg is a PhD student in Comparative Literature at the University of Copenhagen, a visiting researcher at Columbia University in New York, and a visiting Professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. For many years an Associate Professor at various universities in Denmark, he is currently a Lecturer in Danish Language and Culture at the School of European Culture and Languages (Depts. of German and Comparative Literature) at the University of Kent, with the special responsibility to co-found a Scandinavian Studies programme at UKC. He is also a literary and cultural critic at the Danish newspaper 'Politiken', a member of the Danish PEN, and a member of the Editorial Board of JWACS.