The concept of trauma holds a prominent position both in the Humanities and in the Behavioural Sciences. It is simultaneously invoked in a variety of contexts and contested for its fuzziness, Western/Eurocentric pedigree, and sociocultural implications. Given the wide currency that the discourse of trauma has acquired, a study that investigates the roots of the concept and its connection to language, war, and technology is a very welcome addition to the scholarship on modernity. Indeed, as Michael Rothberg writes in the preface of The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism, “thinking genealogically about trauma is one essential means of opening it towards possible, alternative futures” (Rothberg 2013, xi). John Zilcosky’s The Language of Trauma is a brilliant case in point. The first, more noticeable, goal of the book is to shed light on the relationship between trauma and modernity. Zilcosky focuses on the experiences of war, bombing, and early railway journeys – three phenomena that bring to the fore the violence of modern warfare and bureaucratic-mechanised work. The study concentrates on Germanophone literature, taking E.T.A. Hoffmann’s The Sandman, Sigmund Freud’s The Uncanny, and Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis as primary examples. These close readings allow Zilcosky to historicise trauma and dissect its aporias, in particular, the difficulty of having one’s trauma recognised – a difficulty that often generates a short circuit, a trauma that grows out of the very slipperiness of trauma and the indeterminacy of its epistemological and ontological status. The second, thought-provoking, goal of the book “is to connect this medical language of trauma with the language of scepticism in romanticism and modernism, specifically, through the two discourses’ obsession with inscrutability” (p. 6).
The Allied armies fighting in the Second World War were an international and transcultural aggregation of Western, African, Southern American, and Asian soldiers. The main reason for the intercultural diversity in the French and British armies consisted of the extensive deployment of colonial troops on several fronts, from Europe to the Pacific, in the air and on the sea. Unlike their European Allies, the United States did not rely on a colonial empire and had only American troops to deploy in the war. However, the American armed forces were the mirror of American society, which included a variety of ethnic and cultural communities. The book Soldati e patrie (Soldiers and Fatherlands) offers remarkable insight into one particular aspect of this phenomenon, namely the presence of the Italians in the Allied armies, with a focus on the US Army.
Senior Lieutenant Illya Titko is a combat veteran from Kalush, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, Ukraine. He was drafted in September 2015, or rather, he volunteered for the mobilization that was underway. Mr. Titko writes his book from the perspective of a citizen-soldier, as a man who continued to maintain one foot firmly in the civilian world, even though his new environment was a war zone, and “war is when your entire world is turned upside down.”
Jeffrey Stephaniuk, the excellent translator of this book, introduces with these words the author (at p. 6), highlighting the perspective from which the whole story is told: that of a “citizen in arms”, a man who has answered the impellent call of duty when his country was in dire danger. Titko himself adds some remarks a few pages later:
It was not an easy task for me to write this book. It was a real inner struggle, for over a year, on whether I should write it or not. But I was pre-occupied with those past events, mulling that chaotic time over and over in my mind, conscious of the fact that it really wasn’t that long ago when I lived through them. There were nights when I couldn’t even sleep. I’d argue with myself: Should I or should I not write this book? I clearly understood that not only should I write this book, but it was necessary for this book be written. First, it was necessary so that everything I experienced would have its place and not become lost in the subsequent living of my everyday life. I needed to write this book so that those who hadn’t been there personally could know about these events. I wanted them to know what happened and how they happened to those involved, with the people, with the country, and of course all those individuals who resolved to walk this same path, namely soldiers defending their country. I realized that such a book would be necessary for children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, so that they would have access to first-hand accounts about these difficult and stormy days and nights in the history of our nation. (12)
Sport and politics are connected insofar as the latter provides the structural conditions to perform the former: laws, infrastructures, funding, and representation. There is one sombre aspect of this fortunate combination, namely when the political system is a dictatorship. This is the case investigated by Marco Ruzzi in his last book, Generazione Littoriali, in which he unfolds the story of how rugby was introduced to the Italian public and how it developed during the years of fascism and war.
Ruzzi’s book is remarkable in many aspects. The first is the richness of the information that the author provides about a sport that in Italy has occupied a niche, overshadowed by football and other specialities such as athletics or swimming, bicycle races, and Formula 1.
Total War. An Emotional History features some of the most renowned scholars in the fields of the history of emotions and war and culture studies, but the value of the book goes well beyond the expertise of its authors. The eight studies in this edited collection place “the emotions of war centre stage” (Langhamer, Noakes & Siebrecht, Total War: 1) and investigate the intensity and impact of emotions in the total wars of the 20th century. By proposing to use “emotions” as an analytical tool, they also recognize the transformative power of these emotions and consider their linguistic, cultural and physiological dimensions. The volume’s methodological thrust is to use the “expression of emotion” as an analytical category and to study the “emotional agency of historical actors” to then reach new conclusions on motivation and causation in the context of total war.
San Fernando, CA: Tia Chucha Press, 2021. 187 pages
Seeking the most powerful healing practices to address the invisible wounds of war, Dr. Ed Tick has led journeys to Viet Nam for veterans, survivors, activists and pilgrims for the past twenty years. This moving and revelatory collection documents the people, places and experiences on these journeys. It illuminates the soul-searching and healing that occurs when Vietnamese women and children and veterans of every faction of the “American War” gather together to share storytelling and ritual, grieving, reconciliation and atonement. These poems reveal war’s aftermath for Vietnamese and Americans alike and their return to peace, healing and belonging in the very land torn by war’s horrors.
Das Bild des italienischen Soldaten im deutschsprachigen Diskurs über die Vergangenheitsverwaltung, in Aufgeschlossene Beziehungen. Deutschland und Italien im transkulturellen Dialog. Literatur, Film, Medien, ed. by Tabea Meineke, Anne-Rose Meyer-Eisenhut, Stephanie Neu-Wendel and Eugenio Spedicato, Würzburg, Verlag Königshausen & Neumann, 2019, 67-80
Among the contributions appeared in the book Aufgeschlossene Beziehungen (Open-minded Relationships), devoted to the exploration of the way in which the Italian and German cultures have built their transcultural dialogue since WW2, one chapter by Gianluca Cinelli investigates how German post-war narratives, both literary and historical, represented the Italian soldiers in a very negative way, thus paving the way to the consolidation of an old anti-Italian prejudice spread all over Germany. The German combatants came across the Italians during WW2 as allies between 1940 and September 8, 1943, when Italy surrendered to the Allies. What emerges from this contribution is that little attention has been paid in Germany to this topic. Nonetheless, Italian soldiers were represented as lazy and unfit for war, unworthy in battle and unreliable as allies, cowardly and too soft to endure the hardship of modern warfare. And even worse, they were depicted as traitors following Italy’s withdrawal from the conflict in 1943, after which a remarkable number of Italians began to fight against the Germans as partisans.
The chapter builds on historical and literary sources, by combining the testimonies of former German cambatants (from privates of the Afrikakorp to memoirs of such Whermacht higher officers as Rommel or Kesselring) with historic evidence collected by mainly German scholars (from Hammerman to Klinkhammer and Schlemmer). The main thesis of the chapter consists in claiming that the anti-Italian prejudice largely depended on the effectiveness of Nazi propaganda and on the circulation of a number of testimonies that depicted the Italians as inferiors not only as for their military virtues but also on a racial basis. In the end, only the massive integration of Italian immigrants starting from the 1950s began to challenge the dominant stereotype and to rehabilitate the memory of the former allies-and-enemies as human beings and fellow citizens.
Lo sguardo lontano. L’Italia della Seconda guerra mondiale nella memoria dei prigionieri di guerra
For those who are interested in Italian history and the memories of prisoners of war (and for those who can read the Italian language), we are pleased to announce the publication of a new open-access book:Lo sguardo lontano. L’Italia della Seconda guerra mondiale nella memoria dei prigionieri di guerra, by Erika Lorenzon (Edizioni Ca’ Foscari Digital Publishing).