After a generation of relative dormancy, war studies reemerged in Americanist literary criticism when the invasion of Iraq began its slow transition into perpetual global war. Since 2009, when PMLA published a special issue titled “War,” articles, monographs, and undergraduate and graduate courses on war have begun to proliferate. Two recent books from Cambridge University Press illuminate the way literary histories of twentieth-century wars can help us better understand war trauma and the health of returning veterans as well as the competing tendencies in democracy toward militarist interventionism and isolationism.

Ichiro Takayoshi’s American Writers and the Approach of World War II, 1935–1941: A Literary History offers a dauntingly comprehensive literary and cultural history of the US transition from the Great Depression to World War II. At the broadest level, Takayoshi seeks to show how World War II changed the course and shape...

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