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The War That Used Up WordsAmerican Writers and the First World War$
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Hazel Hutchison

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300195026

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300195026.001.0001

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(p.161) Four 1917—Perspectives
The War That Used Up Words

Hazel Hutchison

Yale University Press

This chapter examines how the challenges faced by politicians in 1917 to make language accommodate antithetical viewpoints affected those attempting to write about the personal chaos of the war. Young volunteer ambulance drivers John Dos Passos and E. E. Cummings found the conventional mode of linear narrative unworkable as a means for recording their impressions of the “great confusion,” which they were experiencing firsthand. They were among the first wave of Americans to arrive in Europe after President Woodrow Wilson's declaration of war during the summer and autumn of 1917. Among the innovations of structure, narrative, and tone in the literature of the latter half of the conflict, the most striking were those that introduced new perspectives, as though their authors were in search of a vantage point from which the conflict could be seen to make sense.

Keywords:   language, antithetical viewpoints, John Dos Passos, E. E. Cummings, President Woodrow Wilson, new perspectives

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