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In spite or because of the increasing technological sophistication of warfare, armed conflict across the globe continues to be mediated primarily as an affective experience – a focus of pain, pity, and grief. This conference will address the cultural history of war and feeling. Its main focus will be on the long eighteenth century and the Romantic period. In her recent work, War at a Distance, Mary Favret has stressed the importance of this period as constructing warfare in terms of what she terms an absent presence in modern Western culture. Her concern with affect, and the construction of mediatised wartime, helps to reorient our thinking about war away from the sublime event to instead consider how warfare and its attendant institutions, discourses and practices coalesce to form part of an overall structure of feeling of modern culture that encourages warlike practices.
In this symposium we will consider how affective dimensions of warfare took shape during the long eighteenth century. Our themes are concerned with how British culture reflected anxieties about warfare, how depictions of warfare represented emotion, the role of feeling in a patriotic State culture of war, and how we can trace the pressure of militarism in culture beyond the temporal confines of wars as traditionally understood, particularly through discourses associated with the citizen-soldier, commemoration and total war. As two key anniversaries are approaching – the bicentenary of the Battle of Waterloo (1815) and the centenary of Gallipoli (1915) – it seems timely to explore the various dimensions of war and feeling and its historical perspectives.
Papers Might Address the Following Topics:
- 'War at a distance’, immediacy and estrangement
- Memorialisation and spectacle<
- Total war as a structure of feeling
- War and sympathy, eg. sentimentality and the suffering soldier
- Pain and wounding
- Pacifism as affect
- Limits of sympathy and ‘ungrievable’ lives
- Re-enactment cultures
- History of the citizen-soldier
- Imperialism and wars of civilization
- War as a motor of history
- War and the Enlightenment
War and the grotesque
Related links: ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions http://www.emotions.uwa.edu.au/