EESE 6/2003


"Modern Understanding:"
Gender and Race Politics in American World War I Writings

Karsten H.Piep (Miami University)


In the final chapter of Willa Cather's Pulitzer-prize-winning World War I novel, One of Ours (1922), Mrs. Wheeler finds solace in the thought that her fallen son had been spared the inevitable disillusionment that was to follow the war:

He died believing his own country better than it is, and France better than any country can ever be. And those were beautiful beliefs to die with. Perhaps it was well to see that vision, and then to see no more. She would have dreaded the awakening-she sometimes even doubts whether he could have borne at all that last, desolating disappointment. (458)

Having painstakingly traced Claude Wheeler's transformation from a dull, frustrated Nebraska farm boy into an invigorated and overly idealistic war hero, Cather disposes of her protagonist at the height of his masculine powers. Unlike John Dos Passos, who in Three Soldiers sends John Andrews "out on the Crusade in order to achieve meaning through sacrifice" only to throw him into self-doubt and deep personal anguish, Cather charts Claude's growing obsession with power and violence to its climactic end (Cooperman 176). Primarily interested in the psychological links between idolized notions of women, repressive sexual mores, and violence, Cather deliberately preempts Claude's postwar disillusionment, which, Mrs. Wheeler surmises, might have prompted him to commit suicide.

"That last, desolating disappointment," which Cather both evokes and, to the regret of her critics, suppresses, has undoubtedly become the most enduring legacy of of America's Great War experience, not least because a postwar generation of self-consciously modern writers made it their signature theme. "All [] hopes were reduced to ashes in the savage absurdity of war," Stanley Cooperman writes in his pioneering study World War I and the American Novel (45). Initially "seized upon" as a "means for escaping materialism, for achieving personal nobility" and "for carrying the banner of disinterested justice," the "war was discovered to be an excrescence of hypocritical values and a tragically flawed society. This was the final-and unforgivable-disillusion" (45). Out of this unforgivable disillusionment, Cooperman notes, "a movement of counter-rhetoric developed during the twenties and early thirties, bringing into articulate focus the general cynicism represented by the work of Eliot Paul, the anesthetized 'I' of Hemingway's heroes, and the broad, objective, scientific noninvolvement of Dos Passos' collectivist novels" (44).

In short, the Great War not only gave America's budding literary modernism its frightfully exhilarating baptism of fire, but also its defining gestures of angry protest and disenchantment. In Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, published two years after the war, Ezra Pound forcefully articulates the new self-image of a maimed and shell-shocked yet wizened-up and defiant "lost generation:"
 These fought in any case,
believing in old men's lies, then unbelieving
came home, home to a lie,
home to many deceits,
home to old lies and new infamy;
usury age-old and age-thick
and liars in public places.

Daring as never before, wastage as never before.
Young blood and high blood,
fair cheeks, and fine bodies;

fortitude as never before

frankness as never before,
disillusion as never told in the old days,
hysterias, trench confessions,
laughter out of dead bellies. (187-188)

Having witnessed "wastage as never before" and suffered bouts of hitherto unmanly hysteria in the trenches, the new vanguard of American culture-i.e., well-educated, privileged, white young males such as Ernest Hemingway, E. E. Cummings, John Dos Passos, and William Faulkner-are called upon to expose "old lies and new infamy" and to speak frankly of "disillusion as never told in the old days." For those who "fought in any case," wearing their hard-won disillusionment as a red badge of courage, Pound sees standing poised to serve a death-knell to "an old bitch gone in the teeth / [...] a botched civilization" (188).

Given Pound's prominent account of the genesis of modern man in opposition to a feminized Victorian culture, it is hardly surprising that literary critics have tended to gauge the impact of World War I on the production of literature in terms of its catalytic effects on the innovative writings by British "soldier-poets" such as Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves or American "medical corps literati" such as John Dos Passos and Ernest Hemingway. In order to expose "old lies and new infamy," the well-established argument goes, new literary forms were required that had to be derived from the direct experience of industrialized mass warfare. And in line with the revisionist histories of the Great War that began appearing as early as 1920,1 the gist of this experience was to be "horror, dehumanization, numbness, absurdity, and education into political, cultural, and sexual realities" (Cooperman 125). Hence, stressing the unbridgeable difference between homefront and trench experience and, by extension, between pre- and postwar aesthetics, Paul Fussell categorically asserts that "[e]ven if those at home had wanted to know the realities of the war, they couldn't have without experiencing them: its conditions were too novel, its industrialized ghastliness was too unprecedented. The war would have been simply unbelievable" (87). Following Pound's poetic analysis, Fussell not merely perceives the Great War as a ritual of initiation for young innocent men, but as the entrance rite into the modern world so that a select body of British and American World War I writings becomes the source of all genuinely modern-because historically circumscribed and necessarily ironic -war literature. "I am saying," Fussell writes, "that there seems to be one dominating form of modern understanding; that it is essentially ironic; and that it originates largely in the application of mind and memory to the events of the Great War" (35).2

As numerous feminist scholars were quick to point out, Fussell's emphasis on ironic representations of trench warfare by a disillusioned generation of young war poets has resulted in an epistemological privileging of a particular white male perspective over that of women, blacks, homefront activists, and civilians.3 In effect, Fussell as well as many other critics of the "war poet school" assert that war writings by women and civilians are somehow less "real" and less "modern" than those of combatants. The shortcomings of such a narrow focus on war literature produced largely from a white male perspective are at least twofold. First, as Susan Schweik has argued, it serves to conceal various social struggles that took place at the remote American homefront, e.g., conflicts within the working class, within the progressive movement, among woman's rights advocates, and among the black populace.4 Secondly, in their insistence that "the war itself becomes a genuine dividing line between the literary generations," critics such as Charles A. Fenton bestow with genuineness only the particular, trench-born protest of the so-called "lost generation," thereby casting aside other literary attempts to remember and represent World War I (119).

"The myth of a lost generation," Walsh observes, "is one of the most potent imaginative impulses and orientations in the traditions of American war writing" (5). The political potency of this myth, however, lies not simply in its "aura of betrayal" and "disillusionment," but most of all in its experimental claim of being the sole depository of truly modern memory (5). For as self-consciously modern writers such as Hemingway, Dos Passos, Cummings, and Faulkner "began to capitalize upon their self-image of separateness, of being initiated," not only the modernist aesthetics of these writers-most notably "a suspension of time" and "a modification of customary space"5 (i.e., what Gertrude Stein called a "cubist change of perspective")-achieved "exemplary status," but so did their particular brand of "radical cultural critique"6 (Walsh 80-81). Henceforth, the authorial and critical insistence that both the "actual war experience" and its cultural consequence can only be rendered faithfully through texts making use of modernist aesthetics has lead to a devaluation of the homefront writings by Willa Cather, Edith Wharton, and Dorothy Canfield, whose depictions of World War I are said to be tainted by an adherence to conventions of the historical romance (Hölbling 50-51). And although the Harlem Renaissance is said to have been greatly impacted by the Great War,7 African-American literary responses to the war such as Victor Daly's Not Only War have received little to no critical attention, which seems especially disconcerting since over 367,000 African-American soldiers served in the conflict.8 Obviously, this is as much an aesthetic as a political move, because in assigning sole representational authority to works by white male modernists, these critics create a cultural history of World War I that excludes black voices (much like an U.S. Army that relegated black soldiers to "Service of Supply" units) and undermines the validity of everything female writers such as Cather may contribute to "modern understanding." Ernest Hemingway's blunt rejection of One of Ours in a 1923 letter to Edmund Wilson offers a case in point: "Look at One of Ours," Ernest Hemingway wrote to Edmund Wilson in 1923, "Prize, big sale, people taking it seriously.... Wasn't that last scene in the lines wonderful? Do you know where it came from? The battle scene in Birth of a Nation. I identified episode after episode, Catherized. Poor woman she has to get her war experience somewhere."9

Hemingway might be correct in detecting a strain of Nativism in Cather's One of Ours, his insistence on combat experience as the requisite for narrative validity, however, tends to suppress the multiplicity of ways in which authors from different backgrounds and perspectives sought to understand the socio-political implications of World War I. Put differently, critical presuppositions that only certain texts, utilizing certain experiences in a particular fashion provide an adequately "modern understanding" of American postwar culture, at best limits, at worst forestalls any analysis of the ways in which American World War I writings strive to intervene in ongoing public discourses on gender, race, and class relations. What Amy Kaplan has observed with regard to 19th century realist narratives is also applicable to 20th century war narratives (modernist or otherwise): they "actively construct the coherent social world they represent; and they do this not in a vacuum of fictionality but in direct confrontation with the elusive process of social change" (9).

"War, like writing, shapes perception," Trudi Tate points out (4). Modernism, according to Gertrude Stein, made World War I decipherable: it "created the completed recognition of the contemporary composition" (28). Yet, modernist fiction is certainly not the only form of writing that makes war readable. In Wars I Have Seen, Stein remembers that she has read about wars all her life in history books and novels.10 Thus, to gain, as it were, a fuller perception of the ways in which various representational approaches seek to construct a "modern understanding" of the World War I experience, it becomes necessary to read avowedly modernist war writings by young, white male authors in conjunction with habitually dismissed war texts by authors of different gender and/or color.11 For as Cary Nelson has demonstrated in Repression and Recovery, the cultural work of modernist literature remains obscured until "other vital poetries and other engaged audiences for poetry [that] were also at work" are taken into consideration (22).

Expanding on James Longbach's contention that the "Great War created not so much a turning point as an intensification of the [literary] war between women and men," the following essay explores how writers from different racial and gender backgrounds engage with each other in a fierce debate over the socio-political implications of World War I (114).12 It will be argued that the "modern understanding" of World War I is far less consensual than Fussell, Cooperman, and others have alleged. American Great War literature did not beget a radically new monomythical understanding of World War I. Rather, before the backdrop of growing gender and race tensions in the U.S., individual texts were embroiled in what Antonio Gramsci has described as a "war of position;" i.e., the strategic embrace and subversion, stabilization and destabilization of dominant ideologies that were themselves subject to rifts, shifts, and transformations.13 The first part of this essay, then, surveys three modernist war novels by John Passos, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner alongside more "traditional" war texts by Willa Cather, Dorothy Canfield, and Gertrude Atherton to trace the strategic construction and deconstruction of gender differences before the background of divergent representations of the Great War experiences. Taking David Lundberg's observation that "one searches in vain in the early [postwar] literature for references to black soldiers" as point of departure, the second section of this essay looks at Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson's Two Colored Women With the American Expeditionary Forces and Victor Daly's Not Only War so as to discern how African-American authors strove to write a cultural counter-history of World War I that speaks to the mounting racial tension in postwar America (381).


In the war fictions of male modernist writers, images of wounded, maimed, and permanently scared soldiers abound. At the beginning of part four in Three Soldiers, John Andrews is hit by shrapnel and almost has his left leg amputated; in chapter IX of A Farewell to Arms, Frederic Henry is "blown up" by a "trench mortar" while "eating cheese" and for the following thirteen chapters he is confined to the hospital bed (63); the aviator Donald Mahon in A Soldiers' Pay returns from war so badly wounded that his fiancée cannot even stand to look at him. The sight of mangled corpses on the battlefield, the experience of physical violation, first instill the soldiers with fear, then with revulsion and antipathy: "Like a sudden nausea," Dos Passos writes, "disgust surged up in him [John Andrews] (208). "I felt sick in the night and after breakfast," Frederic Henry remembers, "I was nauseated" (142). And it is this personal, soldier-specific hospital experience of (existentialist?) nausea, the texts emphasize, that informs the veterans' "authentic" antiwar stance of withdrawal:

As soon as he got out of the hospital he would desert;.... He was ready to endure anything, to face any sort of death, for the sake of a few months of liberty in which to forget the degradation of this last year. (Three Soldiers, 211)

The desire for "liberty" is presented here as a direct outgrowth of the "degradation" suffered individually and exclusively by the World War I combatant.

American women writers such as Dorothy Canfield and Willa Cather, too, depict the miseries of soldiers. As Peter Aichinger has argued, however, they strive to show the "universality of modern war and the extent to which it reaches beyond the battlefield to touch the lives of everyone" (7-8, emphases added). In this respect, female literary responses to World War I stand in the tradition of works such as Ellen Glasgow's Civil War novel, The Battle Ground, depicting the impact of warfare on changing social roles. After a conversation with Madame Fleury, Claude in One of Ours realizes that "for these women...war was life, and everything that went into it" (416). The suffering of women on the homefront or at field hospitals, Canfield underscores, equals that of soldiers in every respect. The women who are giving "up every waking hour to ameliorating the lot of the defenders of the hearth and their honor, or nursing the wounded in hospital, have been stark up against the physical side" Canfield writes in Homes Fires in France (165). In a similar vein, Addie W. Hunton and Kathryn M. Johnson observe, [e]verywhere were evidence of [war's] mutilation and destruction of life and home. Everywhere there was exhausting work and deep loneliness" (141). Consequently, in Cather's fiction women find themselves literally in the firing line. As Claude and his men move in to secure the "town of Beaufort," a shot suddenly rings

and an old woman in a white cap screamed and tumbled over on the pavement,- rolled about, kicking indecorously with both hands and feet. A second crack,--the little girl who stood beside Hicks, eating chocolate, threw out her hands, ran a few steps and fell, blood and brains oozing out in her yellow hair. (429)

Cather's depiction of dying female civilians, every bit as graphic as the portrayals of dying male combatants in Three Soldiers or A Farewell to Arms, presents less a " radical new perception[] in its suggestion that women's sacrifices are identical to those of their menfolk" than a deliberate attempt to blur the line of gendered war experience (Goldman, 189). This becomes especially clear when the above scene is compared to Claude's death, which, in accordance with his romanticized view of war, is calculated, quick, clean, and heroic. Claude Wheeler is a Henry Fleming only in his own idealistic imagination.

In Three Soldiers, A Farewell to Arms, and Soldiers' Pay, by contrast, the experience of "exhausting work," undignified death, and gross physical injury is confined to the male body alone. Women such as Catherine Barkley can understand the true horrors of modern warfare only vicariously, if at all. Recalling the death of her fiancÚ, Catherine remembers "having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut... Something picturesque" (20). Of course, "[h]e didn't have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits" (20). The "silly ideas" of women and their utter ignorance of the realities of warfare are a constant irritation to the misunderstood soldiers. During a dance scene in Soldiers' Pay, for example, "a beautiful, painted girl," whose romantic notions of war have been shaped by flying-ace-movies, approaches James Dough, a veteran war pilot, and exclaims: "You must have had an awfully good time while we poor women were slaving here rolling bandages and knitting things. I hope women can fight in the next war: I had much rather march and shoot guns than knit" (179). Having been safe and protected in the hinterland, while their lovers, boyfriends, fiancés endured nerve wrecking shelling in the trenches, women such as the "painted girl" and the gorgeous Geneviève Rod in Three Soldiers still cling to outdated notions of heroic adventure. Hence, Dos Passos and Faulkner portray women not simply as ignorant, but as outright militaristic. Geneviève keeps several loaded revolvers around and, after scolding Andrews for his lack of patriotism, taunts: "I like firearms. Don't you?" (418).

The growing disillusionment of Dos Passos's and Faulkner's war veterans, it becomes clear, is not so much grounded in shattered idealism as in society's refusal to acknowledge and attend to their sufferings. Returning from war, the soldiers in Soldiers' Pay are shunned and dejected. Relegated to the corner of the dancehall, the misunderstood veterans talk loudly among themselves,

drowning the imitation of dancers they could not emulate, of girls who once waited upon their favors and now ignored them-the hang-over of warfare in a society tired of warfare. Puzzled and lost, poor devils. Once society drank war, brought them into manhood with a cultivated taste for war, but now Society seemed to have found something else for beverage. (115)

The victimization of young war heroes, Faulkner emphasizes in this passage, is twofold. First, a jingoistic society promised its young men honor and glory on the battlefields, but only delivered senseless bloodshed. Secondly, the very women who had cheered them into the slaughterhouse of war now refuse to dance with them, to nurse them, to provide physical comfort. John Andrews's hopes in Three Soldiers that Geneviève will help him "to piece together the future" are likewise shattered, when a "sudden terror" takes "possession of him" and he must realize that "she had failed him" (412). Unlike Dos Passos's John Andrews and Faulkner's Joe Gilligan, Hemingway's Frederic Henry does find a pliable women, who will literally sacrifice herself while attending to his war wounds. Yet, what underlies all three of these modernist war texts that center around afflicted male bodies is an overwhelming anxiety over the perceived loss of white male control. The "profound analysis of the phenomena of victimization" that characterizes modernist literature according to Wendy Steiner turns out be a profound fear of diminished male virility, which, by the way, might explain Jake's insatiable hunger for '[b]rown breasts throbbing with love" in Claude McKay's Home to Harlem (850; 6). Donald Mahon's maimed and dying body, which becomes a frightful spectacle for the Georgia townsfolk, provides a visible image for this perceived loss of masculinity. Blind, emasculated, and passive, Mahon represents man's loss of control in a postwar world where strong, independent women such as Margaret Powers and Geneviève Rod (note the connotation of their surnames!) seem to have taken over the reins.

As Sandra Gilbert has pointed out, perceptions of World War I and its social consequences could betimes be very gender-specific: "as young men became increasingly alienated from their prewar selves, women seemed to become, as if by some uncanny swing of history's pendulum, ever more powerful" (425). Excluded and protected from the devastating trench experience, women seized the opportunity to assume a more active role at the homefront; in terms of their own public power, women stood only to gain from men's absence at the front. Thus, Gilbert concludes, "the war that has traditionally been defined as an apocalypse of masculinism seems to have led to an apotheosis of femaleness" (424-425).

Although Gilbert's claim is a bit sweeping, Dorothy Canfield's short story, "Eyes for the Blind," certainly bespeaks just such "an apotheosis of femaleness," for it not only registers the war's potential to dramatically alter gender relations, but actively cerates a world stripped of all vestiges of masculine authority. Before the war a passive women whose husband afforded her a life of luxury, the unmanned heroine of Canfield's story rises to the occasion when called upon to lead a rehabilitation center for the "war-blind" (176). Aside from training the blind veterans to become "professional knitters" and shouldering full responsibility for the day-to-day operations of the institute, the "Directrice" assumes the role of mother and confessor. Surrounded by broken, disoriented men who "nod [...], salute [ ...], and disperse [... ] like obedient children," she acts as their sole pillar of strength and support (176). Even the "great-shouldered, massively muscular fellow clutched at her like a scared child, and began in rapid, hysteric whisper to tell her of the awful things he saw in his eternity of blackness" (177). The transfer of power from men to women is absolute in this story; rendered blind and hysterical by yellow gas, the men are thankful to perform feminine tasks, while the "Victorian matriarch"14 orders the world around them. And even though the Directice does not actually "wear the black and penitential garb of the Mother Superior, she exhibits "all of a Mother Superior's firm, penetrating authority and calm manner" (179).

Gertrude Atherton, another American writer involved in the suffragist movement, goes even several steps farther. Her German heroines in The White Morning: A Novel of the Power of the German Woman in Wartime see war as an opportunity to topple male political dominance once and for all. Fed up with male aggression, Gisela von Niebuhr and her sister stage a violent revolution that will usher in a female utopia: "[t]he women made a concerted rush and disposed of the terrified offenders as remorselessly as their own men had punished the desperate civilians of the lands they had invaded" (148). This political revolution is followed by a sexual revolution that completes the erasure of masculinity, which Faulkner's sexless Donald Mahon seems to portend. Heterosexual relations are replaced when Gisela "revolt[s] against the insolent and inconsiderate attitude of the German male," giving "her real sympathies and affections to her women friends" (47, 68). Thinly disguised as a anti-German propaganda piece, The White Morning presents a radical feminist vision of the Great War through which Atherton realizes her hopes that "if this war lasts long enough women for the first time in the history of civilization will have it in them to seize one at least of the world's reins."15 The roots of the Great War, Atherton underlines in The White Morning, are to be found in the very structure of patriarchal societies, whose characteristically aggressive capitalism had set them on an unbending course toward self-destruction. Discussing the causes of the war, Mimi keenly assesses:

It was also more than possible that [Germany's] aggressive prosperity might one of these days excite the apprehension of Great Britain, who would then show more than her teeth. Gradually the idea must have permeated, taken possession of the minds of men who had vast fortunes to increase or lose, that sooner or later they must fight for what they had and that it were better perhaps to strike first... (86)

And once men begin slaughtering each other over their possessions, the inherent barbarism of patriarchal society is exposed so that war serves to quicken the "deep slow secret revolt...that had been growing among ...women for some fifteen years" (47, 48).

In light of these openly anti-patriarchal representations of war by American feminist writers, the vehemence with which young modernist male writers reacted against them seems hardly surprising. As Ann Douglas has shown in Terrible Honest, American modernism can be fruitfully interpreted as a cultural reaction against "the powerful white middle class matriarch of the recent Victorian past" (6). This is not to say, of course, that Dos Passos's, Hemingway's, and Faulkner's war novels are less political nor that their representations of the war experience are somehow more "honest." Whether in direct or indirect response to the feminist dreams of Atherton, Canfield, and others, Three Soldiers, A Farewell to Arms, and Soldier's Pay articulate male fears and uncertainties about the postwar status of the so-called "New Woman," who emerges as both critic and inheritor of the old matriarch.

In Three Soldiers, for instance, John Andrews reverses Heloise's prayer in The White Morning - "O God...deliver us from war and deliver us from men" (65) -, by projecting his accumulated hatred for the dehumanizing "military machine" squarely onto Geneviève. Aggravated by her flirtations with other men and her long motor-excursions through the French countryside, Andrews snaps at Geneviève: "I'm under the wheels of your system. If your system doesn't succeed in killing me, it will be that much weaker, it will have less strength to kill others" (419, emphasis added). Geneviève, a rich upper-class girl no less hedonistic than Andrews himself, comes to personify the exploitive nature of a capitalistic system that thrives on war for profit. Unable to contain her, Andrews anxiety over his loss of male control grows steadily. Similar to the dejected veterans in Soldier's Pay, Andrews casts himself in the role of a hapless victim of female selfishness: "a slave to stand cap in hand for someone of stronger will to tell him to act" (208). Thus, after Geneviève has stood him up repeatedly, it dawns on him that she merely wants "a tame pianist as an ornament to a clever young woman's drawing room" (416). The charge that women enjoyed easy lives in drawing rooms during the war is a familiar trope in male World War I writings;16 Dos Passos invokes it in Three Soldiers to prompt Andrews's final "gesture, feeble as it is, towards human freedom." Convinced that Geneviève seeks to stifle his male individuality in the stuffy atmosphere of her drawing room, Andrews leaves her and patiently awaits his impending arrest while composing the "first movement of the 'Soul and Body of John Brown'" (430). In the end, then, Andrews gesture of defiance is not so much directed against military "organizations growing and stifling individuals" as against the perceived threat posed by the type of "New Woman" whom Geneviève represents (421).

Whereas Three Soldiers and Soldiers' Pay, stressing insurmountable experiential gender differences, hold women responsible for both prewar militarism and an attended postwar loss of male authority, Cather's One of Ours seeks to dismantle gender differences in order to explore the relationship between idealized notions of women, repressive sexual mores, violence, and self-destructive desires. In much greater detail than Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, One of Ours develops the motif of the frustrated farm boy who seeks adventure and self-validation through warfare. From the beginning, Claude is depicted as "another breed of cats" (86). His relationships with his bullying father, his materialistic brother Ralph, and his priggish brother Bayliss are severely strained. Sensitive and effeminate, he feels instinctively drawn to his mother and Mrs. Ehrlich, mother of a school friend. Reared in an orthodox community, Claude acquires overly idealistic notions about femininity, believing that "women ought to be religious; faith was the natural fragrance of their minds" (169). Thus, he begins courting Enid Royce, a prudish, Victorian reformer, imbued with unquenchable missionary zeal. Hoping that he can change "a cool, self-satisfied girl into a loving and generous one," Claude convinces her to marry him (176). The marriage is a disaster, of course, and starts him off on his course toward self-destruction. Enid rejects sex as impure, demands that he abstain from liquor, tobacco, and other such vices. Moreover, as Susan J. Rosowski notes, Enid, heiress to 19th century progessivist values, immediately "assumes the active male role," taking over at the wheel, managing the accounts, beating him in chess (110).

After Enid has jumped at the first opportunity to embark on missionary work in China, Claude's enthrallment with the war abroad grows and he enlist in the army. It is important to note at this juncture, that One of Ours, unlike Three Soldiers, Soldiers' Pay, and A Farewell to Arms, does not trace Claude's war fervor back to official rhetoric and propaganda lies, but to a deep longing for self-fulfillment that is laced with erotic undertones. "He would give his own adventure for no man's," Claude reflects in France. "On the edge of sleep it seemed to glimmer, like the clear column of the fountain, like the new-moon-alluring, half-averted, the bright face of danger" (420). Claude's fascination with the allure of violence, it appears, stems less from a desire to prove his manliness as from a perverted Eros17 that points forward to such unappealing characters as General Cummings and Sergeant Croft in Norman Mailer's The Naked and The Dead. Hence, Claude substitutes sex for war, feeling comforted by "the sound of the guns" that had "broken open" his "hard moulds and crusts" while harshly disapproving of the amorous affairs of his men (419, 375). Claude, the second part of One of Ours highlights, has not freed himself from Enid's ghost, but has become possessed by it. Like Enid, he cultivates a "sharp disgust for sensuality" and is driven overseas to pursue his selfish goals with Puritanical fanaticism (245). And far from seeing "war as an other-directed, communal experience,"18 Claude perceives war as the chance to assert control over men, arms, and his own life. In the last battle scene, Claude eventually achieves an orgiastic fulfillment of his power fantasies: leading a charge against the "Hun," the "eyes" of his men "never left him. With these men he could do anything. He had learned the mastery of men" (452). Cather "never experienced combat firsthand," yet this does neither mean that she "continued to believe in the war" nor that she shares Claude 's views19 (Lundberg, 380). Quite to the contrary, in charting Claude's failure to free himself from the repressive norms of his upbringing and his subsequent embrace of war as a means to reassert sexualized control, Cather explores the roots of male violence.

Just as Cather's Claude Wheeler substitutes war for sex, Hemingway's Frederic Henry substitutes sex for war. But unlike both Faulkner's Joe Gilligan and Dos Passos's John Andrews, Frederic Henry manages to temporarily restore his war-shattered sense of manhood through a woman, willing to become "whatever [he] want[s]" (79). Catherine Barkley is to Frederic Henry what Gladys Farmer-"who would have made any sacrifice to help him on"-could have been to Claude Wheeler in One of Ours (208). Not simply because she offers easy access to sex (Frederic gets enough of that at the Italian bordellos), but because she grants him total control over herself, fully aware, though, that "[t]his is a rotten game [they] play" (31). What Henry like Gilligan and Andrews need to become "whole again" is neither a lover nor a partner, but a woman who ceases to be a women, i.e., a being that is not different from them. Precisely herein lies Gilligan's problem with Margaret Powers. For his insistence on marriage is not so much a sign of outdated notions about "Ideal American Womanhood" as of the necessity to regain masculinity through control (Cooperman 161). Ready to depart after Mahon's death has ended her second sacrificial marriage, Margaret requests:
 "Joe, come with me."
"To a minister?" he asked with resurgent hope.
No, just as we are. Then when we get fed up all we need to do is wish each other luck and go our ways" [...]
"But I can't do that...."
Why not?" [...]
"Why...if it was just your body I wanted, but I want - I want -." (296)

Gilligan cannot state what he wants because he knows that Margaret would never relinquish her independence. Unable to follow Margaret on her own terms, Gilligan's sense of victimization subsequently achieves sheer epic proportions and in the closing scene, he "suddenly" gains insight into "all the old sorrows of the race, black or yellow or white" (306).

Henry, on the other hand, is never forced to state his intentions, since Catherine submits or, better, rescinds20 herself intuitively. On the subject of marriage Catherine simply declares: "What good would it do to marry now? We're really married. I couldn't be any more married.... There isn't any me. I'm you. Don't make up a separate me" (115). Only through Catherine becoming like him can Henry hope to escape from war. Any difference, any confrontation with the other (sex) would mean the endless continuation of (gender) war. In a conversation prior to his injury, Frederic Henry stubbornly rejects Passini's claim that "[t]here is no finish to war" (51). During his convalescence, however, Henry begins to doubt his position, wondering, "[p]erhaps wars weren't won any more. Maybe they went on forever" (119). Realizing eventually that "they'll always get you in the end," it becomes of utmost importance to Henry's fragile sense of masculine self that his faithful shadow never "fight[s]" and never "misunderstand[s]" him, for as Catherine instinctively knows: "If anything comes between us we're gone and they have us (315,139). Of course, in the end "something" does come between them and violently wrests control over Catherine away from Henry. Biology intervenes and his own prematurely born child, looking "like a freshly skinned rabbit," reasserts the fatal difference (324). The gender war continues indefinitely.

Dorothy Canfield's short story, "The Refugee," describes the plight of French women and children living in a sector occupied by German troops. "One day", "little Marguerite" comes across Uncle Tom's Cabin (129). Having read the book with growing excitement, she exclaims:
Why, auntie, this might have been written about us, mightn't it? It tells about things that happen to us all the time-that we have seen. The men who are flogged and starved and killed, the mothers trying in vain to follow their daughters into captivity, the young girls dragged out of their father's arms.... (129)

Canfield obviously wrote these lines under the impression of U.S. and British war propaganda. Her comparison between the oppression of blacks in the antebellum South and civilians in wartime France is nevertheless instructive, for it reveals - in a bitter comic way - the utter ignorance of most whites concerning the treatment of African-Americans during World War I. Dos Passos's Three Soldiers exhibits similar instance of ignorance, not least because John Andrews fancies himself an abolitionist, though he at last admits: "No; he had not lived up to the name of James Brown" (431). Yet, Fredric Henry's angry retort that he is no Othello, because "Othello was a nigger," Joe Chrisfield's complaints that "[t]his ain't no sort o' life for a man to be treated lahk he was a nigger" as well as Andrews constant references to "slavery" and "enslavement" articulate more than the racist attitudes of the time; collectively they hint white (male) anxieties over the changing status of African-Americans in U.S. society (AFA 257, TS 139).

Works such as Addie W. Hunton's and Katheryn M. Johnson's Two Colored Women With the American Expeditionary Forces seek to exploit these anxieties and to highlight the contradictions inherent in America's war efforts while concomitantly establishing a counter-history of the World War I experience that speaks directly to the "modern memory" of African-Americans. Keenly aware that history is a construct rather than a reflection of reality, Hunton and Johnson state from the outset that they have "no desire to attain to an authentic history," but instead aim "to record [their] impressions and facts in a simple way" (iii). Similar to Walter Benjamin, who in his "Theses on the Philosophy Concept of History" posits that "[t]o articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it 'the way it really was' (Ranke)," Hunton and Johnson seek to capture those fleeting images of the past that disrupt "the continuum of history" and point toward "redemption" (255, 261).

Appropriately, Hunton and Johnson, perhaps following the early example of William Wells Brown's pastiche-like novel Clotel, intersperse their memoir with poems, newspaper accounts, official memoranda, pictures,21 letters, statistics, and the like. This technique (also championed by Benjamin in his essay "the Author as Producer"22) creates a flow-disrupting, impressionistic account of World War I that achieves multiple ends. "Dedicated to the woman of our race," the memoir, like Canfield's and Cather's works, aligns the war sacrifices of women with those of "the young manhood" who "suffer[ed]" and "die[d] for the cause of freedom." The tone of the work is patriotic and clearly designed to impress the "heroic" contributions of black soldiers onto national consciousness in a way palpable to white taste (i). Its political implications, however, are quite forthright (albeit in hindsight somewhat idealistic), serving not only as a reminder that America's promise of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" remains unfulfilled, but also sounding a stern warning that "real peace" cannot be achieved until "hate and its train of social and civil injustices" has been "blott[ed] out" (239). To be sure, in contributing to what Benjamin sees as a larger "tradition of the oppressed" Hunton and Johnson probably do not aim "to bring about a real state of emergency" (i.e., the revolution). Even so, their counter-history seeks to remind its readership "that the 'state of emergency' in which we live is not the exception but the rule" (Benjamin 257).

In "First Day in France," Hunton and Johnson recall an incident that both accentuates the contradiction inherent in the fact that black soldiers, suffering physical and political repression at home, were sent out to "make the world safe for democracy" and plays to white fears that armed African-American troops might turn the tables. Arriving in Bordeaux, the women are not surprised "to be greeted first of all by our own men."

But it did seem passing strange that we should see them guarding German prisoners! Somehow we felt that colored soldiers found it rather refreshing-even enjoyable for a change-having come from a country where it seemed everybody's business to guard them. (15)

Yet, this "refreshing" image, alluding to the possibility of an armed rebellion like those that had occurred in the French army, is immediately supplanted by a sobering picture of exclusion: "We remember, too, the Paris of late summer of 1919, when after her great victory parade-in which all the victors participated except our own colored soldiers-she began to realize her real condition" (17). Black "modern memory," Hunton and Johnson stress, attests to both the (revolutionary) potential for self-liberation and the recognition that "[w]however has emerged victorious participates to this day in the triumphal procession in which the present rulers step over those who are lying prostrate" (Benjamin 256).

If blacks were not the victors in this struggle, they might be the victors in the next struggle. Quoting a poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, Hunton and Johnson reiterate the importance of the African-American contribution to the war effort:
 We are the army stevedores and work as we must and may.
The cross of honor will never be ours to proudly wear away.
But the men at the Front could not be there,
And the battles could not be won
If the stevedores stopped in their dull routine,
And left their work undone.
Somebody has to do this work, be glad that it isn't you,
We are the army stevedores-give us our due. (101-102)

In addressing the disparity between the black and the white war experience ("be glad that it isn't you"), the poem illustrates how the degrading labor battalion experience can nevertheless lead to a growing awareness of the political strength among African-Americans. For if the "stevedores" would suddenly decide to stop their "dull routine," or, like Claude McKay's Jake in Home to Harlem, would one after another simply go AWOL, not just "the men at the Front" but American industrial capital "could not be there."

Equally empowering can be the experience of friendly relations with white French civilians, Hunton and Johnson underscore.23 Contrasting life under segregation at home with life "over there" in France, Hunton and Johnson recall, "[i]t was rather an unusual as well as a most welcome experience to be able to go into places of public accommodation without having any hesitation or misgivings; to be at liberty to take a seat in a common carrier " (182). And despite concerted efforts by the U.S. war information office to warn civilians "that their dark-skinned allies...were so brutal and vicious as to be absolutely dangerous," Hunton and Johnson recall, the "French people...gradually discovered that the colored American was not the wild and vicious character" so that social contacts were established (184).

Two Colored Women with the A.E.F., to be sure, does not present a sweeping history of transnational exploitation and heroic black resistance in the vein of Martin R. Delany's Blake; or the Huts of America. No references, for example, are made to black colonial troops serving in the French and British armies. Prior to America's war entry, the Crisis, edited by the very W.E.B. DuBois who would later issue his controversial call to "close the ranks," managed to expose the global contradictions of World War I much more pointedly, when it reprinted the picture of a black colonial soldier holding a German spike-helmet in his hand with the gloss:

A Black 'Heathen' of the Congo, fighting to protect the wives and daughters of the white Belgians, who have murdered and robbed his people, against 'Christian' Culture represented by the German trophy in his hand!24

Moreover, just as in Pauline E. Hopkins' Contending Forces, the reader finds numerous anecdotes of racial uplift and much advice on gradual amelioration in Two Colored Women with the A.E.F. Still, the book contains many passages and images that call attention to the ways in which World War I fostered a growing awareness of both political power and racial identity among African-Americans. As Hunton and Johnson conclude, "[w]e learned to know that there was being developed in France a racial consciousness and racial strength that could not have been gained in a half century of normal living in America" (157).

Given the growing "racial consciousness and racial strength," which according to Hunton and Johnson emerged out of the black Great War experience, it is hardly a coincidence that Joe Gilligan and Reverend Mahon stop at a black church on the last pages of Soldiers' Pay. Observing an "occasional group of negroes," passing them and "bearing lighted lanterns," the Reverend admits uneasily: "No one knows why they do that" (308). Then from inside the building "welled the crooning submerged passion of the dark race. It was nothing, it was everything; then it swelled to an ecstasy, taking the white man's words as readily as it took his remote God and made a personal Father of Him" (308). Henceforth, the threat issued by the strange and secretive doings of the black people has been contained. Gilligan and the Reverend are not only safe from potential racial upheaval; they are furthermore reinsured that their words will continue to carry paternalistic weight. At least for now. Three years later in Sartoris, Faulkner depicts a black veteran whose defiant attitude portends increased racial struggles as a direct result of World War I. Caspey states in no uncertain terms:

I don't take nothn' fum no white folks no mo'. War done changed all that. If us cullud folks is good enough ter save France from de Germans, den us is good enough ter have de same rights de Germans is. French folks thinks so, anyhow, and ef America don't, dey's ways of learnin' 'um. (45)

Unlike Faulkner's Caspey, McKay's war veteran in Home to Harlem has no intention of "learnin' um". Having observed mounting racial tension in London's multicultural East End, Jake decides to leave his overprotective white girlfriend, who has become "a creature of another race-of another world," and to seek solace among the "chocolate and walnut-brown girls" of Harlem. Immediately before his departure Jake reflects:

Why did I ever enlist and come over here?.... Why did I want to mix myself up in a white folks' war? It ain't ever was any of black folks' affair. Niggers are ever always such fools, anyhow. Always thinking they've got something to do with white folk's business. (6)

Jake echoes sentiments that were shared among many disillusioned blacks, following the experience of undiminished race prejudice, continued segregation, and a resurgence of lynch mob violence in the postwar U.S. "Besides, what have we got to do with the war, anyhow," Roscoe Simms asks in Victor Daly's Not Only War. "It's a white man's war. He started it. Let him finish it. There's nothing in it for us" (20). Jake's retrospective like Roscoe's prospective assessment obviously stand in stark contrast to the hopes many pro-war black leaders harbored during the war. As late as 1918, for instance, W.E.B. DuBois urged black Americans to put the war effort before their own needs by "closing ranks" with white America in support of the fighting in France. DuBois's belief that African-American military participation will help win greater acceptance and freedom for all blacks in the United States is echoed by Montgomery Jason, the protagonist of Daly's war novel. "I think," Montgomery replies idealistically, "that if we roll up our sleeves and plunge into this thing, that the Government will reward the race for its loyalty" (20).

Set in South Carolina and France, Daly's novel explores the possibilities of racial conciliation in postwar America. In doing so, Not Only War vacillates between rejecting and reasserting insurmountable race differences that stem form the experience of not only war, but most of all deep-rooted race prejudice. Drawing a fine distinction between physical and psychological torture, Daly insists in his foreword that white America's aversion toward war is limited to its corporeal terror. "The Hell Sherman knew," Daly writes, "was a physical one-of rapine, destruction and death. This other, is a purgatory for the mind, for the spirit, for the soul of men."25

The plot26 revolves around a love triangle between Montgomery Jason (called: Montie), a young black college student, Miriam Pinckney, an aspiring black schoolteacher, and Bob Casper, descendant of a long line of wealthy plantation owners. Time and again, Not Only War depicts how both whites and blacks have internalized the attitudes and customs of a segregated society. When Miriam and her cousin offer Bob a ride in their buggy so that he may catch his train, he is consternated: "'What! Ride down to the Junction between two niggers!' he thought. 'Hell, I'd rather miss a dozen's trains'" (17). After a while, Bob reconsiders and, in spite of his firm belief "in the Baptist Church, the supremacy of the white race, and the righteousness of the Democratic Party," falls in love with the enticing Miriam (13).

Similarly, though with different implications, when Montie and Roscoe notice "[t]wo gaudily dressed Negro girls" flirting with "two white soldiers" inside a store, they are appalled. "That's the kind of thing I hate," exclaims Montie, adding "[w]omen like that haven't got a damn bit of self-respect" (57). Unbeknownst to Montie, Miriam, his summer fling, has been enjoying motorcar excursions with Bob. Roscoe, having caught Miriam red-handedly just the previous night, bites his tongue, "gazing fixedly ahead" (57).

Both Lieutenant Casper and Private Jason go to France, where the former, (most probably through Miriam's intervention) affects Montie's promotion to sergeant. But even in France, racial differences are hard to overcome. Surprised that he has been assigned to billet with a French family, Montie timidly request "une camber a coucher" and is promptly greeted by a terrified "old women," screaming "non, non, officer...un noir...un Americain " (76-77). "The world over," Montie thinks. "A nigger first-an American afterwards" (77). Gradually, a tender friendship begins to blossom between Montie and the beautiful Blanche Aubertin, for whom Montie is "the first Negro" she "had ever spoken to in her life (81).

Bob Casper is the untold story of Not Only War. Although presumably still in love with Miriam, he appears unable to shed his inbred racial prejudices. During a chance encounter at the Aubertins, Bob is outraged over Montie's presence. He momentarily feels "like striking this insolent nigger," recovers, and eventually has him demoted to the ranks for fraternizing with a white girl. After the court-marital, Montie's idealistic hopes are shattered and he apprehends the hollowness of phrases such as "to make the world safe for democracy-war to end war-self-determination for oppressed people (92). "Maybe Roscoe Simms was right after all," he ponders. "It was a white man's war. It would take more than war, and bullets, and death to wipe out race prejudice" (93).

Earlier, Roscoe, in what seems to prefigure Walter Benjamin's historical-materialist insight that "empathy with the victor invariably benefits the ruler," had proclaimed, "the loyalty of a slave to his master is a vice. No amount of sacrifice on your part or my part, will ever soften the hearts of these crackers towards us" (247, 20). It remains unclear whether Daly ultimately accepts this position, for in the closing battle scene "Montie's anger turn[s] to pity" when he encounters his severely wounded tormentor and eventually decides to carry Bob back to the trenches (104). In the process, both are shot. The final image intimates reconciliation, albeit only in death: "[t]hey found them the next morning, face downward, their arms about each other, side by side" (106). This picture, though, remains purposefully ambivalent, as does the question as to what extent whites are suffering in a "purgatory" of their own creation (7). Bob Casper's cryptic dying remark-"war isn't the only hell that I've been through lately"-clearly refers back to Daly's foreword and seems to hint that the next war "to wipe out race prejudice" is not to be fought with "bullets" (106, 93). Instead, inverting Rudyard Kipling's imperialistic notion of the "white man's burden," it is going to be the "white man's war" to recognize and renounce his tradition of exploitation that had "sucked" the world into the "abysmal Hell" of the Great War (93, 7).


The complex "modern understanding" of America's Great War experience that begins to emerge from the pages of Not Only War, Soldiers' Pay, Two Colored Women with the A.E.F., One of Ours, A Farewell to Arms, Home Fires in France, and Three Soldiers cannot be summed up under the headings "horror, dehumanization, numbness, absurdity, and education into political, cultural, and sexual realities" (Cooperman 125). Nor can it be reduced to a literary mode of "irony-assisted recall" that has its "archetypal" origin in the "primal scene" of futile slaughter during "the first day on the Somme" (Fussell 30-35).27 As this brief and by no means comprehensive reading of writings by "moderns" and "ancients," combatants and noncombatants, men and women, whites and blacks has attempted to sketch out, American literary responses to World War I are shaped less by horrific images of dehumanizing battles than by growing cultural anxieties and ongoing social struggles within U.S. society.28 Thus, without an inquiry into the political and social concerns that underlie particular American literary responses to World War I, any consideration of how the phenomenon of war is represented in early 20th century American remains abstract and tends to valorize certain aesthetical approaches in accordance with prevailing tastes.

Obviously, the experiences of American writers before, during, and after World War I differed widely. And their varied literary attempts to represent the socio-political implications of the Great War certainly reflect this. For while the disillusioned anti-war stance of privileged young white literati such as Dos Passos and Hemingway indeed seems to originate in the trench perception of stagnation and the violation of the male body, the war assessment of female writers such as Cather and Atherton and of black authors such as Hunton, Johnson, and Daly seems to be rooted in the perception of a longstanding tradition of gender and race discrimination. Not surprisingly, then, the ensuing aesthetic struggle over the ways in which World War I is to be remembered has been inextricably bound up with the ongoing political struggles over the status of men and women as well as the status of ethnic and racial minorities in U.S. society.

Works Cited

Aichinger, Peter. The American Soldier in Fiction, 1880-1963: A History of Attitudes Towards Warfare and the Military Establishment. Ames: Iowa State UP, 1975.

Atherton, Gertrude. The White Morning: A Novel of the Power of German Women During Wartime. New York: Stokes, 1918.

Benjamin, Walter. "Theses on the Philosophy of History." Illuminations. Ed. Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken, 1991. 253-264.

Canfield, Dorothy. Home Fires in France. New York: Holt, 1918.

Cather, Willa. One of Ours. New York: A. Knopf, 1922.

Cooperman, Stanley. World War I and the American Novel. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1967.

Daly, Victor. Not Only War. 1928. College Park, MD: McGrath, 1969.

Dos Passos, John. Three Soldiers. 1921. New York: Signet, 1997.

Douglas, Ann. Terrible Honest: Mongrel Manhattan in the 1920s. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1995.

Faulkner, William. Sartoris. New York: Random House, 1956.

Faulkner, William. Soldiers' Pay. 1926. New York: Washington Square Press, 1985.

Fenton, Charles A. "A Literary Fracture of World War I." American Quarterly 12.2 (1960): 119-32.

Fussell, Paul. The Great War in Modern Memory. New York: Oxford UP, 1975.

Gilbert, Sandra M. "Soldier's Heart: Literary Men, Literary Women, and the Great War." Signs 8.3 (1983): 422-50.

Goldman, Dorothy. "'Eagles of the West'? American Women Writers and World War I." Women and World War I: the Written Response. Ed. Dorothy Goldman. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1993.

Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. 1929. New York: Scribner, 1995.

Hölbling, Walter. Fiktionen vom Krieg im neueren amerikanischen Roman. Tübingen: Narr, 1987.

Hunton, Addie W. & Johnson, Kathryn M. Two Colored Women With the American Expeditionary Forces. 1923. New York: AMS Press, 1971.

Kaplan, Amy. The Social Construction of American Realism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988.

Longbach, James. "The Men and Women of 1914." Arms and The Women: War, Gender, and Literary Representation. Eds. Helen M. Cooper, Adrienne Auslander Munich, Susan Merrill Squier. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press, 1989. 97-123.

Lundberg, David. "The American War Literature of War: The Civil War, World War I, and World War II." American Quarterly 36.3 (1984): 373-88.

Nelson, Cary. Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory. Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

Pound, Ezra. Pound, Ezra. "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley." Personae, the Collected Poems of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1926.

Rosowski, Susan J. The Voyage Perilous: Willa Cather's Romanticism. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press, 1986.

Stein, Gertrude. "Composition and Explanation." Look at Me Now and Here I Am: Writings and Lectures, 1909-45. Ed. Patricia Meyerowitz. New York: Penguin, 1984. 28.

Steiner, Wendy. "The Diversity of American Fiction, 1910-1945." Columbia Literary History of the United States. Gen. Ed. Emory Elliott. New York: Columbia UP,1988. 845-873.

Tate, Trudi. Modernism, History, and the First World War. Manchester: Manchester UP, 1998.

Walsh, Jeffrey. American War Literature, 1914 to Vietnam. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1982.


1 See John Lukas's "Revising the Twentieth Century." American Heritage 45.5 (1994): 83-89.

2 According to this definition of "modern understanding," then, Cather's One of Ours must appear decidedly "un-modern," because it violates these "new paradigms for the fictional rendering of war experience" in two ways. First, what Walter Hölbling calls Cather's "regrettably premature ending" avoids irony born of postwar disillusionment (55). Thus, Walsh compares the protagonist of One of Ours to Alan Seeger and Joyce Kilmer, remarking wryly: "Claude Wheeler...dies before he has time to grow disaffected with war" (84). Secondly, unlike John Dos Passos, whose account of the devastating effects of authoritarian power on the individual psyche in Three Soldiers derives from "the application of mind and memory to the events of the Great War," Cather harks back to prewar life on the Nebraska plains in order to explore the roots of Claude's fascination with power and violence. Hence, critics ranging from H. L. Mencken to Jeffery Walsh find praise for part of One of Ours, but at the same attest Cather's "inability to deal with army and combat realities far removed from her own experience" (Cooperman 129).

3 See, for instance, Cooper, Helen M. et al (eds.). Arms and the Women: War, Gender, and Literary Representation. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina Press, 1989.

4 See Susan Schweik's A Gulf Cut So Deeply: American Women Poets and the Second World War. Madison: U of Wisconsin Press, 1991. 293-94.

5 See F.J Hoffman's The Twenties. New York: Harcout, 1965. 87.

6 Walter Hölbling, for instance, argues that although "both the aesthetic innovations and the radical cultural critique of authors such as Cummings, Dos Passos, Hemingway and Faulkner...[initially] affected only a relatively small circle of contemporary intellectuals, especially the novels by Dos Passos and Hemingway set new paradigms for the fictional representation of war, which, meanwhile conventionalized, have maintained their exemplary status into the present" (55).

7 See Nathan Irving Huggins's influential Harlem Renaissance. New York: Oxford UP, 1971.

8 Over 367,000 African-American soldiers served in WWI, 1400 of whom were commissioned officers. Most blacks were placed in noncombat Services of Supply (SOS) units (i.e., labor battalions); for example, 33 percent of the stevedore force in Europe was black. At least 100,000 African Americans were sent to France during WWI. Despite the American restriction on the use of blacks in combat units, about 40,000 African Americans fought in the war. See Arthur E. Barbeau's and Florette Henri's The Unknown Soldiers: Black American Troops in World War I. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1974.

9 Wilson, Edmund. The Shores of Light: A Literary Chronicle of the Twenties and Thirties. New York: Farrar, Starus, and Young, 1952. 118.

10 Stein, Gertrude. Wars I Have Seen. London: Brilliance Books, 1984. 7.

11 In Partisans and Poets: The Political Work of American Poetry in the Great War (New York: Cambridge UP, 1997), Mark W. Van Wienen makes a similar argument. "The critics who have reified the literary history of the period into a lopsided contest between experiential modernist poetry and traditional, genteel verse," he writes, " have simply ignored the variety of poetry limped together under the non-modernist, 'genteel' heading." Thus, "we cannot pretend to offer a literary history of modern American poetry when we treat those poems that seem to us unreadable as if they had never been written" (22-23).

12 Although feminist scholarship on the Great War writings of American and especially British women has been steadily growing since the mid-1980s, few studies discuss the works of women alongside those of men and even fewer studies consider African-American WW I texts. Recently, Claire M. Tylee has discussed two WWI plays by Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Mary P. Burrill in "Womanist Propaganda, African-American Great Experience, and Cultural Strategies of the Harlem Renaissance: Plays by Alice Dunbar-Nelson and Mary P. Burrill." Women's Studies International Forum 20.1 (1997): 153-163. A brief and somewhat dated discussion of Victor Daly's Not Only War can be found in Sterling A. Brown's The Negro in American Fiction. New York: Kennikat Press, 1968. 216-218.

13 See Gramsci, Antonio. Quaderni del carcere / Prison Notebooks. New York: Columbia UP, 1991.

14 A term Ann Douglas uses in Terrible Honest to describe the white middle-class women "who had seized the reins of national culture in the mid- and late-Victorian era" (6).

15 Atherton, Gertrude. The Living Present. New York: Stokes, 1917.

16 See James Longbach's "The Woman and Men of 1914," p. 114.

17 In "Why War?" Freud connects the drive toward destruction with the latent aggressiveness of the sex drive. See Freud, Sigmund. Civilisation, War and Death. Ed. John Rickham. London: Hogarth Press, 1968.

18 For an elaboration on this position, see Ryan, Maureen. "No Woman's Land: Gender in Willa Cather's One of Ours." Studies in American Fiction (1989): 66-75.

19 A conversation shortly before the climactic battle scene in One of Ours underscores that Cather does not endorse Claude's actions. "I never knew there was anything worth living for, till this war came one," Claude tells Gerhardt in this scene. And when Gerhardt objects "it's a costly way of providing adventure for the young," Claude can merely respond: "Maybe so; all the same..." (419). On this issue see also Jean Schwind's "The 'Beautiful' War in One of Ours." Modern Fiction Studies 30 (1984): 53-71.

20 Not, though, in the Hegelian sense of aufheben, for instead of producing a new composite self, their relationship merely reconstitutes Frederic Henry's self.

21 Page 58 contains a picture of Lieutenant Victor R. Daly, author of Not Only War.

22 Benjamin elaborates on the revolutionary potential of pastiche-like literary representations with reference to Sergej Tetjakow's wall news-sheets or Wandzeitungen. See Benjamin, Walter. "Der Autor als Produzent." Versuche über Brecht. Ed. Rolf Tiedemann. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1992. 101-120.

23 Wherefore the U.S. army command undertook every effort to prohibit black troops from fraternizing with French civilians. As Hunton and Johnson relate: "While white American soldiers were permitted to go freely about the towns, the great mass of colored American soldiers saw them for the most part, as they marched in line to and from the docks (102).

24 Quoted in Mark W. Van Wienen's Partisan and Poets: The Political Work of American Poetry in the Great War. New York: Cambridge UP, 1997. 112.

25 Daly's novel has meanwhile sunk into oblivion. When it first appeared, though, it received accolades from no lesser critic that Alan Locke. "It is certainly to be marveled," he wrote, "that with all of the fiction of the war, the paradoxical story of the American Negro fighting a spiritual battle within a physical battle has just now been attempted" (qtd. in Sterling A. Brown 218.)

26 The plot for Not Only War might have been suggested to Daly by an episode in Hunton and Johnson's Two Colored Women with the A.E.F. In chapter 7, Hunton and Johnson relate: "We found in our camp a young college student, who, believing that war spelled opportunity, was among the first to enlist. His education placed him at once in the office of his company, a he went to France a sergeant. He did not find that war meant for him what he had dreamed it would, but he kept loyal; his work commanded respect, and, for a time, all went well. But a company commander came who resented the pride of the colored boy, and then began a series of humiliations that took away rank, sent him to the guard-house and dock" (102).

27 Fussell's claim that the ironic trench experience of the Great War bestowed modern war literature with its "primal" script, which has been replayed ever since in works such as Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, obscures the presence of many other scripts in American post-World War I fictions that thematize war. For it is easy to see how Cather's psychological study of Claude Wheeler's sexual obsession with war portends Norman Mailer's portraits of Sergeant Croft and General Cummings in The Naked and The Dead, or how Atherton's warlike feminist Gisela prefigures the self-transformation of the narrator in Maxine Hong Kingston's The Women Warrior, or how Daly's depiction of interracial relationships during wartime foreshadows the perverted love-hate relationship between in Robert Jones and Madge Perkins Chester Himes' If He Hollers Let Him Go.

28 If there are "primal" scenes of the absurdity of modern war in American literature, they might as well be found in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage, Ambrose Bierce's Civil War Stories, Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court or perhaps even in Melville's Moby-Dick.

Karsten H. Piep
Miami University, Department of English, 333 Bachelor Hall
Oxford, Ohio 45056-3414;