Civil War Era Studies
There is a vast array of scholarship on the literature of the First World War, much of it concerning British authors. When American war literature is considered, it is usually the so-called “Lost Generation” writers of the 1920s and 1930s. If the war had a significant effect upon American literature, it is argued, then it served as a trope for some of the great writers of the 1920s—Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner—who wrote of living in its generational shadow in the following decades of so-called peace.
Hazel Hutchison’s book is a corrective to the many assumptions about the war in American letters. In her beautifully written cultural history, The War That Used Up Words, Hutchison demonstrates to readers just how significant the war was to Americans writers who lived through it, served in it, and were writing about it while it was ongoing. She writes, “the really creative moment, the ignition spark of innovation, happened during the war through the work of such writers as Mary Borden and Henry James, Edith Wharton, Ellen La Motte, Grace Fallow Norton, E. E. Cummings, and John Dos Passos” (p. 3). This focus on American writers during the war changes our perceptions on the war’s impact as it has been traditionally interpreted after the war. [excerpt]
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Version of Record
Isherwood, Ian. Review of The War that Used up Words: American Writers and the First World War by Hazel Hutchison. Journal of Military History 83, no. 1 (2019): 263-264.
Required Publisher's Statement
This article was originally published by the Society for Military History.