Vincent considers the way U.S. literature of the 1920s and 1930s used the rhetorical occasion of World War I to promote revisions of U.S. liberalism and its prevailing ideologies of citizenship. Urged on by desires for a more cohesive polity, Vincent argues, numerous war novelists made use of the cultures of allegiance and collectivity fostered by war mobilization as rhetorical means by which to bridge gaps in notions of political obligation enabled by the flimsier, more local interests of laissez-faire. Borrowing from supplementary logics of valuation extrinsic to the liberal-democratic tradition—religious, masculine, statist, militarist—many war narratives advanced discourses of sacrifice and preparedness to promote broader metrics of affiliation more likely to achieve national community and the accommodation of a more managerial state. In part, this essay seeks to revise the sometimes monolithic focus on modernist or experimental writing in assessments of the postwar moment as an antiwar watershed. Vincent emphasizes war narrative's continuities with prior Progressive-Era longings for compulsory civic foundations as well as the bourgeoning culture of national security that, in some respects, grew out of the Great War's political crucible.
Jonathan Vincent; “Tendrils of Association”: World War I Narrative and the U.S. Political Imaginary. American Literature 1 September 2010; 82 (3): 553–581. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2010-024
Download citation file: