Call for articles: CEIWJ n. 4 (2021), “Emotions and Close Encounters in War”

The editors of the CEIWJ invite to submit abstracts by February 10, 2021

The universe of emotions has always represented a major challenge for research in every field of knowledge, from Philosophy to Physics, from Psychology to the Arts. Although everyone knows what emotions are insofar as almost everyone can “feel”, as it comes to provide a clear or systematic explanation of emotions, words fail. Today, interdisciplinary studies see cognitivists working side by side with psychologists, linguists, anthropologists, biologists, historians, and philosophers to elaborate insightful theories of emotions. One breakthrough that has oriented the new research agenda since the 1990s consists in the claim that the human mind is – despite the rationalist tradition rooted in Descartes’s philosophy and the following theories of Enlightenment and Positivism – emotional (see, for example, pivotal studies by Antonio Damasio and Joseph Ledoux in the 1990s).

During the preparation of Issue n. 3, devoted to post-traumatic stress disorder, we have grown even more aware that war and emotions are deeply entwined. We may even dare to say that if humans go to war, it is mostly due to emotions, although the rational urge to organise and explain war in term of science is equally powerful (as historian Bernd Hüppauf and ethologists such as Irenäus Eibl-Eibelsfeld have demonstrated). For sure, the individual caught in a war, from its preparation to the very experience of battle, is exposed to a great number of emotional stimuli that affect their reactions and decision-making. Propaganda, the feeling of “belonging”, affective bonds, ethical inclinations, and cultural notions such as racism, nationalism, patriotism, cosmopolitanism, as only some of the numerous and varied contributing factors that may lead people to make war or to avoid it. We believe that the “close encounter” makes this list as well as a fundamental emotional experience in war.

Issue n. 4 of CEIWJ will aim to investigate the theme of close encounters in connection to the emotions by exploring its facets both on a micro-scale, by studying individual testimonies and experiences, and on a theoretical and critical basis throughout history. CEIWJ encourages inter/multidisciplinary approaches and dialogue among different scientific fields. We therefore welcome articles that frame the topic within the context of close encounters in war from the perspective of Aesthetics, Anthropology, Arts, Classics, Cognitive Science, Ethics, History, Linguistics, Politics, Psychology, Sociology, and other disciplines relevant for the investigation of the topic. Case studies may include different historical periods as well as over different geographic areas.

We invite articles which analyse the connection between war and emotions from ancient to modern and contemporary periods, from the perspective of the encounter, reaching beyond the study of military tactics and strategy and focusing on the emotional dimension of how human beings “encounter” each other – or themselves – in war. Contributions are invited to promote discussion and scholarly research from established scholars, early-career researchers, and from practitioners who have dealt with the emotional response to war in the course of their activities.

Topics and research fields that can be investigated include but are not limited to:

  • Theoretical inter/multidisciplinary approaches to the study of emotions and war;
  • The emotional impact of war on culture and social behaviour;
  • The emotional and ethical impact of language in the context of war (propaganda, pacifism, anti-war literature, etc.);
  • The emotional aspects of oral history, memory studies, therapy, and PTSD-counselling in theory and practice;
  • Expressing and representing emotions and war in music, figurative arts, literature, testimonies and personal narratives;
  • War and the emotional elaboration of death, mourning, trauma, and loss;
  • The emotional impact of colonial and civil wars, captivity and deportation;
  • Emotional response to war crimes and military justice;
  • Emotional implications of otherness, race, and gender in war-contexts.

The editors of Close Encounters in War Journal invite the submission of abstracts of 250 words in English by 10 February 2021 to ceiwj@nutorevelli.org. The authors invited to submit their works will be required to send articles of 6000-8000 words (endnotes included, bibliographical references not included in word-count: please see submission guidelines at https://closeencountersinwar.org/instruction-for-authors-submissions/) in English by 30 June 2021 to ceiwj@nutorevelli.org. All articles will undergo a process of double-blind peer-review. We will notify the results of the peer-reviewing in September 2021. Final versions of revised articles will be submitted by November of 2021.

New publication on Primo Levi

Innesti. Primo Levi e i libri altrui, ed. by Gianluca Cinelli and Robert S. C. Gordon, Oxford, Peter Lang, 2020

Primo Levi’s work presents an extraordinarily rich and articulated case of intertextuality. Being a curious, omnivorous, and asystematic reader, Levi explored multiple fields of knowledge – literary, scientific, historical, etc. – browsing between specialized and popular books and magazines, for reasons of research or pure entertainment, often approaching foreign cultures in the original language, driven by his eclectic curiosity and an intense desire to know and understand. Already fathomed in part by Levi himself in his anthology The Search for Roots (1981), his library remains however to be discovered. This volume intends to trace the features of a critical map of the grafts, intertexts and transplants that link Levi’s work to the books of others, by comparing it with twenty-one authors, in a “polyglot and multipurpose” gallery that includes classics such as Dante, Shakespeare, Leopardi, Baudelaire, and Carroll; authors of modern literature such as Kafka, Mann, and Calvino; and scientists such as Galileo, Darwin, Heisenberg, and Lorenz.

Table of contents

Domenico Scarpa: Prefazione xi
Gianluca Cinelli e Robert S. C. Gordon: Introduzione 1

Parte I – Gli strumenti umani
Antonio Di Meo: Primo Levi e William Henry Bragg 19
Mario Porro: Primo Levi e Galileo Galilei 37
Patrizia Piredda: Primo Levi e Werner Heisenberg 55
Alberto Cavaglion: Primo Levi e Giuseppe Gioachino Belli 73
Enzo Ferrara: Primo Levi e Stanislaw Lem 87
Stefano Bartezzaghi: Primo Levi e Lewis Carroll 107


Parte II – La condizione umana
Vittorio Montemaggi: Primo Levi e Dante 127
Valentina Geri: Primo Levi e William Shakespeare 143
Simone Ghelli: Primo Levi e Pierre Bayle 161
Martina Piperno: Primo Levi e Giacomo Leopardi 179
Damiano Benvegnù: Primo Levi e Konrad Lorenz 197
Pierpaolo Antonello: Primo Levi e Charles Darwin 215

Parte III – Comprendere e narrare il Lager
Charles L. Leavitt IV: Primo Levi e Elio Vittorini 237
Uri S. Cohen: Primo Levi e Vercors 255
Sibilla Destefani: Primo Levi e Charles Baudelaire 273
Stefano Bellin: Primo Levi e Franz Kafka 287
Davide Crosara: Primo Levi e Samuel Beckett 305

Parte IV – La ricerca di sé
Martina Mengoni: Primo Levi e Thomas Mann 327
Gianluca Cinelli: Primo Levi e Herman Melville 345
Mattia Cravero: Primo Levi e Ovidio 361
Marco Belpoliti: Primo Levi e Italo Calvino 381

Biografie degli autori 403
Indice dei nomi 407

Announcement: Experiencing War at the Library of Congress

For the 75th anniversary of D-Day, the Library of Congress published a webpage titled Experiencing War. Researchers and anyone who is interested can access 12 collections with diaries, photos and oral histories of men and women who experienced that event.

The page can be accessed at this link: https://www.loc.gov/vets/stories/ex-war-dday75.html

The materials are part of one of the Library of Congress’ special projects: the Veterans History Project (VHP), part of the American Folklife Center, which collects personal accounts of American war veterans with the aim to preserve the memories of war and conflicts in which the United States took part, from the First World War up to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The VHP’s materials provide a wealth of sources for researchers who work on experiences of war, and many of those can be accessed remotely through their website: https://www.loc.gov/vets/

Announcement: Shadow Agents of War Workshop

A fascinating event is taking place next week on 4th June at the University of Edinburgh: a one day workshop titled “Shadow Agents of War”, which will focus on the role in war of certain players who are largely overlooked by scholars of war and conflict, such as refugees, convicts, commoners and even animals. The workshop also promises to tackle methodological issues and point to relevant sources. The workshop is co-organised by Stephen Bowd, who is currently working on a project on gender and early modern warfare, Sarah Cockram, who focuses on the early modern period, too, and is interested in historical animal studies, and John Gagné whose current book project is on transcultural war in the early sixteenth century.

The workshop will have three sessions: The Unwilling Agents of War; The Organisers of War; The Suppliers of War.

The full programme can be accessed by following this link: https://research.shca.ed.ac.uk/shadow-agents-of-war/

“Land of Mine”: an Ethical Example of Wisdom and Empathic Rationality

By Patrizia Piredda

The Oresteia by Aeschylus, like every Greek tragic trilogy, represents a series of catastrophes and grieves provoked by the violent feeling of revenge that prevents reason from evaluating the best actions to take. Orestes is hunted and tormented by the Erinyes because he killed his mother, who assassinated her husband, who originally sacrificed their daughter Iphigenia, Orestes’ sister…

Download full article

War as Moral Experience in Wittgenstein’s Secret Diary

by Patrizia Piredda

When he stopped his studies of engineering in Manchester, Wittgenstein moved to Cambridge to study logic under the guidance of Bertrand Russell because he believed that by comprehending the fundamentals of language, and therefore the limits of language, he would understand its essence,   as well as that of human beings, in primis, himself…

Download full article

What does “proximity” mean for local interpreters working in zones of conflict?

By María Manuela Fernández Sánchez

Few professions have such discriminatory stereotypes as translators and interpreters. Very sadly, the Italian cliché traduttore, traditore is still thought to be true by many people. Nevertheless, both translators and interpreters have also contributed to the persistence of these stereotypes. To make matters worse, the concept of the unfaithful interpreters has been fuelled by sensationalist media as well as by military and political leaders. The following example is from The New York Times…

Download full article

Encountering war in the letters from the front

By Gianluca Cinelli

The letters sent from the front during WWII constitute a broad universe which we are just partially familiar with (tens of thousands of letters out of billions). Only a very small portion of the immense corpus of letters from and to the fronts has been published, which means that such a form of testimony constitutes an important but also distorted means of encounter with war. Do therefore letters constitute a good means for encountering war? Do people at home really come across war, when they read the letters received from their loved ones at the front?…

Download full article

Reading War Photographs: Who is the photographer?

By María Manuela Fernández Sánchez

In an interview published in the newspaper El País (April 17, 2015), José Palazón, president of the nongovernmental organization “Prodein”, and winner of the XVIII Luis Valtueña Humanitarian Photography Award, remembers a conversation that he had with a prosecutor, twenty years ago, when he was denouncing the abuses against immigrants in Melilla, the Spanish enclave on the North African coast. Palazón complained that his efforts to gain visibility were not getting anywhere, to which the prosecutor replied: “Look for evidences. Take photographs”. Since then, it seems that Palazón has learned his lesson and the photograph “Desolate landscapes”, which he submitted to the Luis Valtueña photography competition has travelled around the world.

Download full article

War and the Humanities: an introduction to Close Encounters in War

By Simona Tobia and Gianluca Cinelli

War and the Humanities: an introduction to Close Encounters in War

Ancient Romans used to say “si vis pacem, para bellum”, which one could rephrase as “if you want peace, prepare for war”. War has always been much more than mere fighting. It affects society as a whole even in peacetime, for example in terms of training, preparation and strategy. Carl von Clausewitz wrote that war is the “continuation of politics by other means”, meaning that war implies some transformation of mentality and the awareness that sometimes dialogue and compromise are not enough to compose litigation between two countries o two communities. However, war is no necessity. The Latin motto cited above must be read ironically, especially because it sounds very useful for any imperialistic ideology aiming to preserve its power and privileges by threatening other countries by stockpiling weapons and training big armies. War is not desirable, and as the French WWI veteran Jean Giono said, war does not uphold peace. All the opposite: war produces war, while peace is just another path. But one could say that it takes a long way to understand this, or better, it takes experience.

War is a brutal affair, but it has been and continues to be a key aspect of human history and social change. The Humanities and the Social Sciences can help us make sense of that, because they talk about who we are and they help us define our experience. They can also help us make sense of the disturbing aspects of the human character which become so evident in war. The violent nature of wars and conflicts and their effects on societies around the world and throughout history raise complex moral and ethical questions the answer to which is generally very controversial. For example is war always wrong? How can we explain our behaviour in war? Why do we wage war?

We believe that the best way to address these complex questions (again, ambitious project!) is to look at the cultural aspects of war and conflict, really focusing on the human experience of those who were (or are) there. We want to talk about ‘what it is like’ to be there, and for us the best way to do it is with the help of the Humanities. ‘Cultural aspects’ means that any kind of narrative about war and conflict is interesting for us, as well as any kind of representation, from literary, journalistic and artistic portrayals to exhibits and museums.

Combatants are not the only witnesses of war. Civilians, journalists, NGOs-operators, and other groups can equally tell stories about war insofar as they have seen it. The strength of such stories rests on their ability to convince others that war is, or is not, a worthwhile experience. They have come across war and gone through it, for better or worse. All those who have seen war have experienced violence and its corruption. Story-telling, together with other things (such as monuments, museums, celebrations, and others) embodies atonement, purification and return to civil society. Witnesses can share their opinions about war, can use words as a new and not lethal weapons to support the cause of fighting or that of peace. Story-telling is a particular encounter with war for those who have no clear idea of what war is. A narrated conflict is a cultural object. It is made of images and words; its very fabric is the rhetoric of story-telling, and later on of history. From facts to stories, war transforms itself into an experience of suffering and violence which can be made without the risk of getting overwhelmed and harmed.

All representation is interpretation. It has its own reality but it also contributes to create new reality. Representation-interpretation transfigures war into an indirect experience, an intellectual one. One could say that a discourse on war is true because it has been produced by an eye-witness or by an objectively detached and well-informed historian. But how can one tell the difference? Where is the limit between war as reality and war as a vision? The Humanities and the Social Sciences set the tools, critical and intellectual, to face this methodological and epistemological questions. What’s more, they also help understand those questions ethically.

War as an encounter with the unknown, the unexpected, the undesirable implies an understanding of what encountering ‘the enemy’, ‘the other’, or merely ‘the different’ means. Disciplines such as history, philosophy, literature, sociology, anthropology, psychology and others can help us discern and comprehend. So let us begin our discussion with two articles on the very actual issue of violence in captivity.