"The Academic World in the Era of the Great War" (CfP)

Trinity College, Dublin
Co-organized by the Centre for War Studies at Trinity College in Dublin and the Canadian Center of German and European Studies of the University of Montreal, this conference has to be held in Dublin on August 2014 and aims to investigate the role played by the academic world in the WWI, starting from the assumption that the international community of scholars and the universities influenced different aspects of the war and civil life during the conflict. From this point of view, we'd like to see in this Conference and in posting this CfP  a chance to re-build even today new bridges between the academic community and all people interested in WWI.

Below is the text of this Call for Papers available also at this site:

The Great War could neither have been fought nor won without scientific knowledge. Academic expertise in various fields, from history and law to chemistry and medicine, proved crucial to its prosecution. New links were forged with government that would alter forever the ways in which universities functioned and their relationship with the state. As communities, universities were at the heart of the societal and cultural mobilization for the war (through the activities of their staff, the roles played by students and alumni and the use of university facilities for hospitals, public meetings and war-time education). In some cases they sheltered opposition to the war. Academics and universities also played an important role in defining the meaning of the war and refashioned the very notion of international communities of scholarship in order to take account of the polarization produced by the conflict. In this, they foreshadowed the political engagement of learning that would become a marked feature of the ‘short twentieth century.’ For all these reasons, the war cast a long shadow over attempts to return to some kind of ‘normality’ once the conflict was over.

The Academic World in the Era of the Great War is a major international conference that will address these issues. Co-organised by the Centre for War Studies at Trinity College Dublin and the Centre canadien des études allemandes et européennes at the Université de Montréal, it will be held at Trinity College Dublin on August 15th-16th 2014 to mark the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War. It will be the first attempt to examine this subject systematically and in a comparative and trans-national fashion. It is hoped that it will result in an innovative edited volume. The conference will be inter-disciplinary, and the organisers welcome submissions from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

While the conference will address a broad range of questions, particularly relevant are: 
1. How did engagement in the Great War impact the development of different disciplines? 
2. How did the mobilization of academic expertise into growing state bureaucracies shape the relationship between higher education and the state? 
3. How did the war change the relationship between scholarship and industry? 
4. How did scholarly engagement in war-related issues challenge traditional understandings of academic function and academic freedom? 
5. What impact did war have upon the international community of scholars which had flourished before 1914? How did academics deal with the breakdown in international relations, and what mediating techniques were utilised? 
6. How was scholarship utilised to achieve a lasting peace and how were academics used as agents of demobilization? 
7. How did the war impact student life and identity? 
8. To what extent did the war change traditional gender roles in academic communities? 
9. In what ways did academic communities nurture pacifism?

Proposals should include the following elements, preferably in PDF format 
1. A one page abstract of the proposed paper, including the title and an overview of the argument, as well as indicating whether you have any audio-visual requirements. 
2. A one page C.V.

Submission of proposals 
Please submit abstracts to the following email address: academicworldconference@gmail.com no later than the 31st of July 2013

Organising Committee 
Marie-Eve Chagnon, Université de Montréal 
Tomás Irish, Trinity College Dublin

Scientific Committee 
Andrew Barros, Université du Québec à Montréal 
Martha Hanna, University of Colorado, Boulder 
John Horne, Trinity College Dublin 
Norman Ingram, Concordia University, Montréal 
Alan Kramer, Trinity College Dublin 
William Mulligan, University College Dublin 
Jay Winter, Yale University

Tomás Irish
Trinity College Dublin, Department of History, Arts Building

URL: http://www.tcd.ie/warstudies/

The poets and the World War: "The farmer, 1917" by Fredegond Shove

Fredegond Shove
(née Maitland)
Gerald Frank Shove
© National Portrait
Gallery, London
There are several reasons to share here the reading experience of a poem by Fredegond Shove (1889-1949). Firstly, the text we chose reminds us that the war poetry was not only a men thing. Her poetry was selected to be part of the Georgean poetry series edited by Edward Marsh which eventually turned into the canon for a certain time. Today we can appreciate the new feeling and scenario she puts in front of us among the other poetry contributions. Shove was one of the few women writing about First World War (or at least one of the few we know today) and her contents seem to be totally distant from the most common themes we can find out in a book like The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry edited by George Walter (by the way, he also selected Fredegond Shove). If the diversity of voices and tones is a matter of fact in the legacy of the War poetry, we have to conclude that this poem by Fredegond Shove allows us to enter a separated world, the life of the protagonist of this text (“I see a farmer”…, “I see the farmer”…, “O single farmer walking through the world”) and the awareness of “war behind those hills”, of invisible dead and living “in their midst / So awfully and madly knit with death.”. Her fortune was basically ups and downs, but we think that this poem features many elements that shall be treated as innovative, for example "returning like the day", "the subtle cinctures of those hills" or "The sullen veil of alternating cloud". Last but not least, her life leads us to Ralph Vaughan Williams, a composer who landed on both feet on World War One things with his Pastoral Symphony. Anyway, let's go step by step, we'll come back with Vaugham Williams later on. Verses like "know that there is war behind those hills", "I cannot feel, but know that there is war" feature a kind of cubistically reinvented reality and the final part of the poem ("And they are him and he is one with them") is simply astonishing. We fear that the real value of this poem has not been fully recognized...


I see a farmer walking by himself
In the ploughed field, returning like the day
To his dark nest. The plovers circle round
In the gray sky; the blackbird calls; the thrush
Still sings---but all the rest have gone to sleep.
I see the farmer coming up the field,
Where the new corn is sown, but not yet sprung;
He seems to be the only man alive
And thinking through the twilight of this world.
I know that there is war behind those hills,
And I surmise, but cannot see the dead,
And cannot see the living in their midst---
So awfully and madly knit with death.
I cannot feel, but know that there is war,
And has been now for three eternal years,
Behind the subtle cinctures of those hills.
I see the farmer coming up the field,
And as I look, imagination lifts
The sullen veil of alternating cloud,
And I am stunned by what I see behind 
His solemn and uncompromising form:
Wide hosts of men who once could walk like him
In freedom, quite alone with night and day,
Uncounted shapes of living flesh and bone,
Worn dull, quenched dry, gone blind and sick, with war;
And they are him and he is one with them;
They see him as he travels up the field.
O God, how lonely freedom seems to-day!
O single farmer walking through the world,
They bless the seed in you that earth shall reap,
When they, their countless lives, and all their thoughts,
Lie scattered by the storm: when peace shall come
With stillness, and long shivers, after death.

"Témoins" and "Du Témoignage" by Jean Norton Cru: the problem of the testimony and knowledge of war events

The photos taken in wartime and the written testimonies coming in postwar period are responsible for shaping our imagery. Videos are not so important in the reconstruction of the First World War, for sure their importance is not comparable with the one they have today (think about the Gulf War, probably the first “television war”). The question is always the same: what do we really know about the wars and the Great War in particular? How to behave in front of the propagation of false news and propaganda in wartime (Marc Bloch). Sometimes it seems we are living between the arrogance and the self-confidence coming from historical researches. If we read Robert Darnton's books we are probably absorbed in the same kind of questions: the diversity of times and spaces is probably transforming every historiography into a heap of unconvincing and highly debatable knowledge. What can we know about the battles if we did not take part to them? How can we keep a balance between a full skepticism and the above mentioned self-confidence of historical knowledge?

In Témoins  by Jean Norton Cru we see a first methodical, probably too grandiose attempt of cataloguing all kinds of testimonies belonging to World War I years. Jean Norton Cru wrote in his books about the concept of "First World War battle" as an "abstraction" and his approach was not ascribable to historical revisionism or negationism (even if someone tried to use him as a forerunner) and for sure he was not aiming of being lynched. It's like to say that it is impossible to bring the past and its complexity back to life. And it's about Norton Cru's books that we would like to spend some words, because they are probably preparatory (or at least “functional”) to all possible discussions about the value of historiography and testimony of the Great War years. Jean Norton Cru wrote at the end of the Twenties two books about his researches (he was a poilu of the western front and took part to the battle of Verdun, so he probably had an idea of what a "battle" is).

Témoins (now in the catalogue of Presses universitaires de Nancy, 1993; the complete title was Témoins : essai d’analyse et de critique des souvenirs de combattants édités en français de 1915 à 1928) first came out for Ed. Les Etincelles in 1929, the year of Hemingway's Farewell to Arms and Remarque's Im Westen nichts Neues, and it's a collection of 251 testimonies of "combatants" of the Great War (one of his goal is to reshape the meaning of the word "combatant"). Du Témoignage can be considered as a shorter version and a compendium of Témoins. The books were able to rise at that time a big debate around them (also because of the political tendencies of their publishing house). Why? Cru was probably the first to apply a kind of etnomethodologic approach to World War One testimonies. His overlook is from the bottom to the top and he became protagonist of one of the fiercest attack to military history appeared during the Twenties. His first book was probably a natural reaction to all the huge fabrication of "lies" he red in the aftermath. One of his main concerns was to understand deeply the level of reliability of each kind of testimony and to separate the good ones from the bad (his good will may seem too optimistic today). It's like saying he was concerned about their "level of truth" of all possible testimonies. In these terms we could even consider his works as epistemology. It was also a “cause célèbre” his polemic with Henri Barbusse and his most popular book, Le Feu, accused of being far from the reality of the war.

His books are not the most important key to approach the World War I but they are relevant, also for the general evaluation of all kinds of writings (diaries, testimonies, memoirs, novels, letters). Every time we speak about World War One we should go back to the value of testimonies and memoirs asking frequently to ourselves what do we really know about those events. Even reading Marc Bloch's Memoirs of War (for World War I) or The Strange Defeat (for World War II) the feeling is the same and at the end of the day the only certainty is the need of this Socratic prudence that does not mean pure distrust and skepticism. We’re not putting on the same level Norton Cru and Bloch. The first was probably suffering from “extreme positivism” due to his education. The crucial point rising after reading both of them is "how to narrate history?". We often run the risk of skimming over a bookish knowledge of historical facts. If with Marc Bloch we are for sure at the highest level of 20th century's historiography, the importance of Norton Cru’s works lays perhaps more on a pure documentary and bibliographic basis, and his pacifism did not allow him to understand the war experience of his “combatants”. Cru was too concerned in understanding the “level of precision” of the writings he examined. But his approach can be considered still today a warning against all kinds of falsification risen in the postwar period (and, strange to believe, we still live in the postwar period, with lots of documents still to sift).

Voices of War in Peacetime. An exhibition in Treviso

Trenches of Mount Ermada
From the very beginning of WWI in 1915 till the battle and the rout of Caporetto in late October 1917, the Italian and Austro-Hungarian Army faced each other harshly in the front line in the eastern edge of Italy, in the region today called Friuli Venezia Giulia. Julian and Carnic Alps and Pre-Alps, the Isonzo and the Tagliamento areas, the Kast were the setting of numerous fights, which left signs visible still today. This is the case of the Mount Ermada open-air museum, one of the many in the area which feature the remains of war buildings and trenches of the First World War. Located in the municipality of Duino Aurisia, the Mount Ermada, together with the near river Timavo, was a sensitive strategic position for the Austro-Hungarian Army: With its three peaks and only 323meters above the sea level, the mount Ermada dominated the Carso range and assured so the control of the near city of Trieste. That's why the Austrian Army transformed it into an insurmountable bulwark against the Italian assaults. Thanks to the effort of several organizations on the territory, this Austro-Hungarian fortess was newly restored: the caves used as shelters and warehouses or the trenches represent one of the most suggestive remembrances of the WWI in the Karst, this calcareous plateau alongside the eastern border of Italy which combines in a unique way mountains, dolinas, caves and vertical cliffs over the Adriatic Sea. 

Today we would not like to suggest you a special itinerary in this places (at which more attention has to be devoted sooner or later even here); we’d like rather to recommend you at present a travelling exhibition entitled Voci di Guerra in Tempo di Pace (Voices of War in Peacetime), which recreates and tells the story of WWI in the Karst and on Mount Ermada in order to preserve and promote to a modern audience the WWI heritage in the Duino Aurisina municipality. Organized by the Italian based Gruppo Ermada Flavio Vidonis the exhibition travelled from the Castle of Duino and arrived recently in Milan, where it displayed a series of photographs and artifacts collected during long-lasting searches all over central Europe. The next stop, in a renewed and enriched version, will be Treviso, in the Sant’Artemio headquarters of the Province. 

The exhibition will be opened Friday, March 15th, with a reading from letters of soldiers of the Great War and musical accompaniment. Three sections will be set up. The first one collects many photographs of the Karst and especially of the neighboring villages to Mount Ermada during WWI and other objects in order to depict the destruction that this region and its inhabitants suffered. The second section describes in details the restoring work of the trenches and of other military artifacts on the Ermada defensive line and offers so an anticipation of the itinerary which can be undertook at place. The third section is then dedicated to the near cemeteries and monuments, such as that of Aurisina. The exhibition is opened till March, 29th.

Further information on times and locations here.

World War One and Cinema. An initiative by Cerpcos (CfP)

Spielberg's War Horse is set
during World War I
Here another interesting Call for Paper, this time focused on the relationship between WWI and Cinema. We guess many of you are thinking right now at War Horse, newly directed by Steven Spielberg, or at some other renowned film, even an older one, as the 1959  Italian Classic La Grande Guerra, by Mario Monicelli. The Great War affected however in many ways the cinematographic production since its outbreak till nowadays and combined fiction and reality according to the different publics and historical tastes. The multiplicity of forms, meanings, techniques and purposes of this relationship will be the focus of the conference organized by the research group CERPCOS, which will support also meeting with film technicians. 

Welcomed are Paper Proposal on the following topics:

- War movies as instrument of propaganda, which exert influence on public opinion
- Cinematographic innovations and developments
- 14/18 and cinema: real or fictional memory?
- How to recreate the war in the cinema (technical and scenic perspectives)
- Actors and characters: playing, dressing and make up
- Unconventional characters, from the outlandish to the animal
- Geographical and psychological war consequences in the movies
- Serving the France

A short presentation of the Paper along with indication on which of the above mentioned topics will be discussed and with CV should be sent to cerpcos@gmail.com, before 15th April 2013.

Italian Great War museums #1: Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra in Rovereto

The main Italian Great War 
museum in Rovereto
In Italy we count many small Great War museums. To the tourist's eyes this fact looks like picturesque, probably typically Italian and all in all reassuring. But in the global scenario dimensions matter and this dimension issue might become a crucial problem in terms of coordination and promotion during the Centenary period. This configuration is obviously a huge limit for Italy. What Italy misses and consequently what the rest of the World War One nations are missing is probably a hub-museum or institution able to take advantage of many feeder-museums, players or stakeholders located for example along the Piave meandering line. Italy cannot count on something similar to British Imperial War Museum, Canadian War Museum or US World War One museum, even if the history of Italy in First World War is much longer compared to the one of the United States. Nevertheless we believe that we cannot avoid to mention the Italian Great War museums as future protagonists of the Centenary celebrations, even if their contribution is still to imagine and to evaluate on a national basis. It might be too blunt, but we should conclude that no one in Italy was able to make business out of the Great War. We mean a serious and scientifically reliable business, because on the other hand we attend every month to many small local businesses of collectors, bazaars and similar things. What a pity!

Beside of that, we should consider that probably the idea of historical museum itself is now facing one of the biggest crises ever: historical museums should rethink their guidelines and their strategies in order to be attractive without compromising the quality of the offer. Everybody knows that historical museums should go beyond their dusty tapestry and that their precious weapon collections can turn one day into knick-knack. Alas... what a big challenge! Perhaps too big for us. That’s why we need to go grassroots and prefer to tell some stories of Great War Museums in Italy, just to recap and map the hundreds of dots that hopefully will turn tomorrow into a special and magnificent blueprint. And we cannot but start from the principal First World War museum one can find in Italy, called "Museo Storico della Grande Guerra" in the city of Rovereto. It’s for sure the most prominent and complete museum dedicated to the war years in the eastern front between Italy and Central Empires.

In this case we don’t need to spend too many words about its collections (the website is also in English). We just would like to remind that in spring the museum is fully open (including the southern wing). This museum hosts the most complete collections of WWI weapons, uniforms, photos, relics, posters, letters and diaries available today in Italy. The focus on World War I shouldn’t lead us to forget the wider time frame that it covers (from Napoleon to World War II). Only the section dedicated to artillery is still closed and is going to open again in May. The visitors can drop by the exhibition entitled “Pasubio 1915-1918” (closing next November, see also our itinerary) dedicated to the war on the mountain boundary between the Trento and Vicenza provinces. In case we were good enough to arouse your curiosity, a visit to the English website is now highly recommended.