Rewriting War: The Paradigms of Contemporary War Fiction in English

Funding Body, Reference & Duration

The project is financed by the Spanish Ministry of  Economy, Industry and Competitiveness, whose support we gratefully acknowledge. The project’s reference number is FF12017-85525-P. This project will run from 2018 to 2021.


Literary theory and criticism reveal how war has affected the lives and writings of second- and third-generation witnesses in contexts widely separated from war itself.

Bearing in mind the need to approach war experience with extreme caution to avoid either the anxiety involved in the representation of conflict or the comforting reassurance of relying on ‘grand (war) narratives’, this project aims to critically reconsider both the issue of ‘authenticity’ in the use of historical sources and the need to access and interpret the past from contemporary settings.

The project will study British and American war fiction published since 1975, which is the year of the publication of one of the most influential studies of the subject in recent times: Paul Fussell’s The Great War and Modern Memory. This selection of texts will therefore attempt to shed light on the major wars and conflicts of the 20th century (the two world wars and the Holocaust, the Spanish Civil war, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Falkland Islands War, the Iran-Iraq War, the Gulf War, among others).

In this project, we will attempt to explore the ethical dimensions of war writing and the possibilities of closure, resolution or consolation by showing that these texts can effectively establish the adequate representational spaces for approaching and reconsidering past wars.

The essential objective is to construct two theoretical paradigms through which the experience of war can be assessed, and which we call (1) post-memory and (2) aesthetic articulations.

The concept of “post-memory” and “historiographical metafiction” will help make sense of contemporary war fiction and shape our understanding of war (and the subsequent peace) in more constructive ways.

Consequently, we posit that literature can be of use in the politics of peace-making and conflict resolution and can contribute to the formation of fairer, more egalitarian societies.