Specters of War looks at the way war has been brought to the screen in various genres and at different historical moments throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first. Elisabeth Bronfen asserts that Hollywood has emerged as a place where national narratives are created and circulated so that audiences can engage with fantasies, ideologies, and anxieties that take hold at a given time, only to change with the political climate.
Such cultural reflection is particularly poignant when it deals with America’s traumatic history of war. The nation has no direct access to war as a horrific experience of carnage and human destruction; we understand our relation to it through images and narratives that transmit and interpret it for us. Bronfen does not discuss actual conflicts but the films by which we have come to know and remember them, including All Quiet on the Western Front, The Best Years of Our Lives, Miracle at St. Anna, The Deer Hunter, and Flags of Our Fathers. Battles and campaigns, the home front and women-who-wait narratives, war correspondents, and court martials are also explored as instruments of cultural memory. Bronfen argues that we are haunted by past wars and by cinematic re-conceptualizations of them, and reveals a national iconography of redemptive violence from which we seem unable to escape.
"In this accessible volume, Bronfen does a remarkable job of locating the point at which filmed representations of modem warfare intersect with popular culture. Recommended."
"...a thoughful addition to the literature of cinema and war. Spectars of War is clearly structured and stylishly written."
—Journal of American History
"In Elisabeth Bronfen's important new book, war is remembered through genre, with combat and its aftermath leaving an imprint on a startling range of films. Nowhere has the impact of war on cultural life been more vividly defined."
—Robert Burgoyne, author of The Hollywood Historical Film
"Ranging from Griffith to Eastwood, Bronfen's meticulous readings discern where film and history bear decisively upon each other. Informative and unsettling, composed and written with unsparing force and clarity, Specters of War is a compelling and enduring contribution to film studies."
—Tom Conley, author of An Errant Eye
"In this aerial reconnaissance of an entire century's filmmaking, Bronfen's high-powered lens examines both obvious battle zones and camouflaged violence in various psychic deflections. Movingly, and with rare command, mission accomplished."
—Garrett Stewart, author of Framed Time: Toward a Postfilmic Cinema
Author / Editor Bio
ELISABETH BRONFEN is a professor of English and American studies at the University of Zurich. She is the author of Over Her Dead Body: Death, Femininity and the Aesthetic; The Knotted Subject: Hysteria and its Discontents; and Home in Hollywood: The Imaginary Geography of Cinema.
Table Of Contents
1. Unfinished Business of the Civil War
2. Home and Its Discontent
3. War Entertainment
4. Choreography of Battle
5. Reporting the War
6. Court-Martial Drama
7. War’s Sustained Haunting