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

Balcony view from the Harbour lawn
8 July 2020
Refurbishment of the balcony

This project has been given the go-ahead as part of the Estates Strategy to improve our College buildings and environment.

Plans and Prospects Front cover
30 June 2020
Wolfson: Plans and Prospects 2020 out now

The 2020 edition of the annual College magazine brings readers up to date with all the latest news and activities from Wolfson. 

30 June 2020
Great success for Student Hardship Auction

The auction was a great success, raising over £12,500 for students in need as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

Our upcoming events

Courses and Workshops
13 - 26
Jul Jul
Early Hindi & Brajbhasha Workshop
Monday 13 July - 3:00pm to Sunday 26 July - 4:00pm

This international workshop brings together scholars and students of literature in Brajbhasha and other forms of of Early Hindi (including Avadhi, Hindavi, Rajasthani, and Maithili), as well as related languages and literary idioms. During the workshop we read and discuss texts on which a particular academic is working.

Parties and Dinners
01 - 01
Aug Aug
Degree Day
Saturday 1 August - 11:00am to 3:30pm

Preceding the degree ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre at 14:30, the College hosts the Signing of the Graces and a celebratory reception for our graduands and their family and friends. This event is by invitation only; please see the degree days page on our website for further information. 

Parties and Dinners
07 - 07
Aug Aug
Degree Day
Friday 7 August - 11:00am to 3:30pm

Preceding the degree ceremony in the Sheldonian Theatre at 14:30, the College hosts the Signing of the Graces and a celebratory reception for our graduands and their family and friends. This event is by invitation only; please see the degree days page on our website for further information.