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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

Work in Progress Seminar: National Cultures and Languages in the Storm of the Great War

7th December 2016, 12:00, ER152, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University

Literature as Propaganda: Anglo-German cultural battles in the First World War

(Monika Smialkowska and Ann-Marie Einhaus, Department of Humanities, Northumbria University)

One prominent feature of British media discourse during the First World War was a denouncing of German ‘Kultur’ as barbaric, militarist and uncivilised, alongside some attempts to acknowledge the cultural legacy of Goethe and Schiller, Bach and Beethoven. Unsurprisingly, similar denunciations occurred in Austria-Hungary and Germany, where British culture was widely derided as inferior and materialistic. These views, however, encountered some challenges, such as the universal reverence for Shakespeare and other canonical writers and artists across both Britain and the German-speaking world. Our short paper draws on our respective research projects and explores two examples of literature used in the cause of propaganda, whether pro-war or pacifist: appropriations of Shakespeare, and literary texts in translation as cultural mediators in wartime.

War, hunger, and censorship: letters of Italian PoW's in the Great War

(Carlo Caruso, Durham University, MLAC)

It is estimated that approximately four billion letters were exchanged between soldiers on the North-Eastern Italian front and their families and friends in Italy over the period 1915-1918. Part of this correspondence consisted of letters from Italian PoW's which had been subjected to Austrian censorship, and a significant portion of this corpus was examined by a wartime Austrian censor who later became a leading scholar: Leo Spitzer (Vienna, 1886-Forte dei Marmi, 1960). Spitzer offered an innovative analysis of the material by stressing the correspondents' inventive approach to language and expression, irrespective of their social class and condition.

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