Professor Susan Farrell Publishes New Book on American War Literature
What does 9/11 have to do with World War I? What connects Delillo to Hemingway? Is there a tradition of war-writing in America?
Just released from Camden House Press is Susan Farrell’s new book, Imagining Home: American War Fiction from Hemingway to 9/11. The book investigates how American writers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries have imagined domestic spaces as alternatives to experiences on the front lines of war, often challenging traditional gender dichotomies in the process. Though historically war has often been seen as the domain of men and thus irrelevant to gender analysis, this book argues that American writers frequently examine war through the lens of traditional gender expectations, specifically that boys become men by going to war and girls become women by building a home. Yet, the writers discussed in this book complicate these expectations as their female characters often take part directly in war and especially as their male characters repeatedly imagine domestic spaces for themselves in the midst of war.
Chapters on Hemingway and the First World War, Kurt Vonnegut and the Second World War, and Tim O’Brien and the Vietnam War place these writers in their particular historical and cultural contexts while tracing similarities in their depiction of gender relationships, imagined domestic spaces, and the representability of trauma. The book concludes by examining post-9/11 American literature, probing what happens when the front lines actually come home to Americans. While much has been written about Hemingway, Vonnegut, O’Brien, and even 9/11 literature separately, this is the first study that puts these works together in order to examine views about war, gender, and domesticity over a hundred-year period. It argues that 9/11 literature follows a long tradition of American writing about war in which the domestic realm and the public realm are inextricably intertwined and in which imagined domestic spaces can provide a window into representing wartime trauma, an experience often thought to be unrepresentable or incomprehensible to those who were not actually there.