Working in partnership with various research centers – Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (Wolfson College, Oxford University), Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern University), ReSIC (Université Libre de Bruxelles), and the Experimental Media Lab (Academy of Fine Arts Saar) – and for the Conseils Généraux in Lorraine on their collective UNESCO project to have World War I sites in the Greater Region recognized with World Heritage status, the research group I.D.E.A. (“Théories et pratiques de l’interdisciplinarité dans les études anglophones”) is announcing a call for papers for a one-day conference, “Literary Journalism and World War I.”
The conference, which will be held on the Nancy campus of the Université de Lorraine on 19 April 2014, hopes to bring together scholars of literary journalism, reportage, le journalisme littéraire and literarische Reportage from England, the U.S., France, Belgium, and Germany.
For as long as there have been wars, there has been war reporting. The only thing humankind seemingly values more than the taking of life is the rendering of that death in print. From Mesolithic to Neolithic cave drawings at Bhimbetka (India) and Jabel Acacus (Libya) to the Attic histories and epics of Herodotus, Thucydides and Homer; from Elizabethan theatre to Generation Kill: no media, ancient or modern, has escaped the theme of man’s inhumanity to man, nor, despite all intentions, its resultant valorization by a public too thirsty for blood.
Like its sister arts – journalism and literature – literary journalism (that is, journalism as literature, as opposed to journalism about literature or fiction by journalists) attempted to expose the necessities and the horrors of World War I; but, unlike its siblings, literary journalism rarely made a lasting impression on both media historians and literature scholars. Too belletristic to be considered factual, too timely to be considered universal, literary journalism is, however, today finding its rightful place alongside of these two respected disciplines.
This conference will unite literary journalists from both sides of the trenches who used long-form narrative journalism (when the country was not occupied) to promote national chauvinism, to trace the war’s aftershocks, or to facilitate what is today called “peace journalism.”
Albert Londres, Joseph Kessel, Louis Piérard, Louis Tasnier, Egon Erwin Kisch, Joseph Roth, John Reed, Richard Harding Davis, Philip Gibbs and Basil Clarke, to name but a few, covered the war and its aftermath as journalists, but chose to capture their subjects in a literary style incompatible with the factographic journalism that began emerging at the time.
The conference aims to assess the impact literary journalism had on various nations’ reporting during the Great War (including pieces written by the soldiers themselves and published in the various nations’ trench journals and newspapers) and how those stories might help to reconfigure certain historical legacies, journalistic heuristics and literary representations of the War in the 21 century.