Literary Journalism and War

OCLW is acting as project partner to a bid for a research project in development by John S. Bak at the Université de Lorraine. For more information, please see the project webpage

Description: Few would dispute that the violence of war is one of the most horrific experiences to which the human community is exposed. Yet, in modern journalism discourse, we have tended to objectify war to a safe, sublimated distance. In effect, we have made of war a euphemism, which, as the poet Joseph Brodsky observed, “is, generally, the inertia of terror” we do not wish to acknowledge. This is why some journalists turn to literary journalism to account for war, and why the genre is so necessary, even critical, because it helps us to perceive better through the aesthetics of experience the monster of war we have created.

This project proposes first to establish the parameters of the term literary journalism (creative nonfiction, realistic novel, memoir, reportage, journalisme d'immersion, etc.) and the notions of war (not only ‘hot' wars or ‘cold' wars but also other conflicts, such as cyber wars). Second, it will examine how those wars have been covered differently by literary journalism than by the traditional press. Third, it will analyze various examples of literary journalism from countries around the world to see if literary journalism unifies the humanities in how it covers war, all the while the war that is being covered divides us further from each other. Topics included will be case studies of wars from colonialist Africa to World War I and from Russia's involvment in Chechnia to America's military engagements during the Arab Spring. Research in the form of conference presentations, seminars and book and journal publications (a special issue of Literary Journalism Studies will be edited) will examine how literary journalism tries to balance the bloody with the banal in war reporting.

The long-term project will be to disseminate the project's research findings to various communities. An online, interactive website will provide a database of literary war journalism written throughout the world. Internauts will be able to click on a country in Europe or Africa, select a site where a war was centralized, and access the various literary journalistic pieces written about that particular site by literary journalists of multiple nations. Additional media will be made available as well, including manuscripts, notebooks, letters, photos, and videos linked to the war and the journalistic piece.

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The latest from Wolfson College

11 November 2019
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy delivers Annual Sarfraz Pakistan Lecture

Pakistan, a deeply patriarchal society is rapidly changing and women are at the forefront.

Alan Bowman Portrait
7 November 2019
Professor Alan Bowman delivers the Ronald Syme Lecture

Alexandria was for many centuries, the largest and most important city in the eastern Mediterranean.

4 November 2019
The Wild East

At the start of October, Harriss-White together with Lucia Michelutti published the collection "The Wild East".

Our upcoming events

Lectures and Seminars
13 - 13
Nov Nov
Workshop: Adam Smith as Jurist
Wednesday 13 November - 9:25am to 4:30pm

This workshop explores the themes raised in Prof Iain McLean's lecture of 12 November: Adam Smith as Jurist.

Art Exhibition
13 - 13
Nov Nov
Guided Tour to "Last Supper in Pompeii" Exhibition at the Ashmolean Mu...
Wednesday 13 November - 10:00am to 11:00am

Dr Paul Roberts, GB Fellow, Sackler Keeper of Antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum, and curator of the current special exhibition "Last Supper in Pompeii" offers two guided tours to the exhibition to AWRC Members. One on 18 Oct at 3:30 pm and the second on 13 Nov at 10 am.

Restricted to Cluster Members, max. 15 people.

Meeting Point: at the entrance to the exhibition (3rd floor Ashmolean Museum) 15-10 minutes before stated starting time.

Lectures and Seminars
13 - 13
Nov Nov
The Salvator Mundi, Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci
Wednesday 13 November - 5:30pm to 7:00pm

You are most welcome to a discussion of the 'Salvator Mundi' that is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci

By Matthew Landrus (Wolfson College
and Faculty of History, University of Oxford)

At 5.30pm on Wednesday 13 November 2019

Leonard Wolfson Auditorium
Wolfson College, Linton Road OX2 6UD

Admission Free
Wolfson College Arts Society