Presented for the
Doctor of Philosophy
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
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Copyright © Patrick Paul Christle, 2001
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This dissertation is dedicated to all the individuals who served in America's wars, especially those wounded in body and spirit and those who gave their lives.
I want to thank the many individuals who assisted me along the way to making my dream become a reality. First and foremost is my dissertation director Allen Dunn and the other committee members, Charles Maland, B. J. Leggett, and Vejas Liulevicius. Without their guidance and patience this dissertation would not have been possible.
Many people have offered me encouragement and moral support over the years. For this I especially want to thank Tanya Ainsworth, Kirsten Benson, Allison Carey, Abdi Hussein, my parents Paul and Mary Christle, Barbara Lawson, Thomas Christle, Mary Ann Keane, and Marc Christle. Financial support for which I am deeply grateful was provided by the English Department and the College of Arts and Sciences.
This study examines twentieth-century American war novels. Many American writers use the battlefield as the stage upon which to work out their explorations of what it means to be an individual in the twentieth century, an individual mired in the mass culture of the modern industrial world. Thus, I argue that for these authors war is a sort of intensified experience of and an allegory for the world at large. The novelists I have discussed all seem to believe that our modern technological society tends to diminish and reify individuals, thus alienating them from one another. To combat this tendency many of the authors are searching their materials for any signs that our society might be capable of achieving better communication between individuals, more cooperation, and a recognition of the interdependence that binds humanity together while affirming the value of the individual. I claim that their novels tend to reduce human aspirations to either naturalistic or existential dramas--naturalistic in that individuals are at the mercy of circumstance or existential in that isolated individuals accept the responsibility of their own freedom. Responses to the plight of the modern individual range from totally hopeless to cautiously optimistic. These novelists often obscure the role of community in the creation and maintenance of individual identity and posit an ambivalent freedom, at best. Some, though, do attempt to provide a model of what constitutes a genuine community. Ultimately, I argue that a significant amount of hope for the future of the individual can be found in twentieth-century American war novels. Beleaguered individuals are portrayed holding positive values and taking positive action often enough to give the reader something to ponder and reason to hope.
2. THE GREAT WAR
3. WORLD WAR TWO
4. THE VIETNAM WAR
Click here to go to the PDF version of this dissertation. The exact pagination of the original hardbound copy, as found in the John C. Hodges Library on the campus of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville (call number: Thesis 2001b.C36), is available, as is an Index which is not in the original. The proper academic bibliographic citation for the PDF version, using MLA format, is as follows: