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Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare) Hardcover – October 27, 1995

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Editorial Reviews


"...represents an audacious and persuasive reassessment of the cultural history of the Great War. Winter has seriously undermined the credibility of the standard shibboleths about the death of traditional European civilization and the birth of `modern memory' amid the bloodshed of 1914-18." William R. Keylor, Boston University, H-Net France

" engaging, even compelling, exploration of the comparative impact of 'mass death' on European culture....[a] nuanced study of the meaning of death and consolation. An erudite piece of scholarship that will certainly set the standard for future studies of its kind, this book is essential reading for anyone interested in the cultural history of the Great War." Choice

"Jay Winter has enlarged the frame of cultural history and enriched its texture. He transforms our understanding of World War One as a cataclysmic event in the experience of European peoples. With learning, imagination and compassion he musters many voices, familiar and unfamiliar, to demonstrate unexpected and even astonishing continuities between traditional and modern perceptions of death and destiny." Kenneth S. Inglis, Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University

"From now on this book will be indispensable to our understanding of the Great War. The most recent scholarship has been taken into account, but, above all, Jay Winter gives us crucial new insights into the war's meaning from the process of mourning for the fallen to apocalyptic literature." George L. Mosse, University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Fallen Soldiers

"A profound and moving exploration of the search for solace amongst the bewildered 'communities of the bereaved' after the Great War. Here is a historian who has neighboured with the dead to remarkable effect. His grasp of the meanings placed upon loss will place all historians of the First World War in his debt." Keith Robbins, Vice-Chancellor of Saint David's University College, Lampeter

"...the study is beautifully and sensitively written and adds new interpretations to our knowledge of the deeply felt need to memorialize the horrendous human losses of World War I....The volume will appeal to historians, psychologists, literature and art students who study the two World Wars." Agnes Peterson, History

"Otto Dix, he [Winter] tells us, carried both Nietzsche and the bible to the Front after he volunteered for the Imperial German armies, and that bitter image of the war (and society) which he would construct both during and after the conflict would be inspired by an intermingling of modern and ancient ideas. Dix's memory and that of most others would look both forward and back. The greatest strength in Winter's account lies in these moments of detailed reconstruction." International History Review

"Winter's study is an important one. It will form the basis of a reassessment of facile arguments about the nature of cultural change in the twentieth century, and it opens up new areas to examination." Military History

" single book can definitively explain the Great War in terms of its terrible reality or its impact on the social, political, and spiritual constructs of civilization, European or otherwise, but Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning is certainly a significant chapter in the chronicle of that war." Newstead

"In this ambitious study, Jay Winter challenges key distinctions prevalent in scholarly writing on the cultural consequences of the Great War." Sarah Farmer, Journal of Social History

Book Description

Jay Winter's powerful and substantial new study of the 'collective remembrance' of the Great War offers a major reassessment of one of the critical episodes in the cultural history of the twentieth century. Using a great variety of literary, artistic and architectural evidence, Dr Winter looks anew at the ways, many of them highly traditional, in which communities endeavoured to find collective solace after 1918. The result is a profound and moving book, of seminal importance for the attempt to understand the course of European history during the first half of the twentieth century.

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Product Details

  • Series: Studies in the Social and Cultural History of Modern Warfare (Book 1)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; y First edition edition (October 27, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521496829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521496827
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,286,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Kane on May 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Winter himself states in his introduction that he is a dissenter from the 'modernist' school of interpretation when it comes to the cultural legacies of the Great War. He's thinking notably about those interpretations rendered by Paul Fussell or Modris Eksteins who set out to show how the Great War transformed European culture - turning it away from past modes of expression and thought (patriotic certainties, 'high diction' in poetry and prose, high flown and hallowed notions about duty, honor, etc., and a classical esthetic) and towards new modes in all forms of artistic and cultural expression. The surrealist and cubist movements are commonly held examples, or the cryptic writings of Joyce or e.e. cummings. Though Winter does not, as he cannot, dispute such new cultural attitudes he attempts in "Sites of Memory..." to restore some historical balance to the equation. Basically he feels that in looking at the effects the experience of the Great War had on European society too much attention has been given to what changed, and too little to what remained, or at least to those aspects of Europeans' cultural heritage that were called forth as moral buttress to the overwhelming pain and loss of the war. Religious themes would be the most obvious example here. Winter looks at a variety of cultural expressions to find this traditionalism - graveyards, engravings, war monuments, books, cinema. On the whole he did help me rethink the war and did it in a very eloquent way. At times I found myself wondering if this debate over 'ancient and modern' concerning the effects of World War I wasn't stumbling over different definitions of just what 'modern' means.Read more ›
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Grady Harp HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
There are many reasons why World War I has been labeled THE GREAT WAR: it was the war to end all wars in the minds of those who lived through it, who were directly and indirectly affected by it, who continue to reference it as the war with the most emotional cost. In times when wars seems to constantly queue since that inception of world war, wars spreading from WW II, through Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf, Balkans, Eastern Europe, Spain, Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, South America and on, taking a long hard look at the Great War will hopefully center our attention on a past time that can be analyzed and from which we can hopefully learn.

Now that Jay Winters' brilliant book 'Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning : The Great War in European Cultural History' is available/affordable in paperback, every household should have a copy as children grow into the years of this century. Winters' examination of the devastation of WW I and the ways in which it informed all of the arts, the architecture, the literature, films, memorials - the people of the globe - is a mighty assignment and he is more than successful in humanizing his message. This book overflows with photographs of places, faces, bodies alive and dead, paintings, sculptures, film stills - each of which drives home Winters' powerful message.

Sad though it may be to admit, war is a part of life on this abused planet: the more we study it the more we hopefully will reduce it. Winters wants to make sure that we remember, that we read, view, walk through, see, hear, and listen to the remnants the Great War left behind. This is a powerful, necessary book and should be required reading and viewing for us all. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, August 05
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Certain Bibliophile on July 7, 2011
Format: Paperback
"My Peter, I intend to try to be faithful ... What does that mean? To love my country in my own way as you loved it in your way. And to make this love work. To look at the young people and be faithful to them. Besides that I shall do my work, the same work, my child, which you were denied. I want to honor God in my work, too, which means I want to be honest, true and sincere ... When I try to be like that, dear Peter, I ask you then to be around me, help me, show yourself to me. I know you are there, but I see you only vaguely, as if you were shrouded in mist. Stay with me..." - Kathe Kollwitz (artist), in a letter to her son Peter, who was killed in WWI

This excerpt from a letter by Kathe Kollwitz, whose heartbreaking sculpture and prints encapsulated the loss of an entire generation, also addresses some of the concerns at the heart of Jay Winter's "Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning," which explores intellectual territory already trodden by the likes of Paul Fussell in his "The Great War and Modern Memory" and George Mosse in his "Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars" (which I reviewed for this site in January.) Unlike Mosse's book, which looks at larger national and cultural factors, Winter hones in on how people coped with tragedy on a level unknown until the trench warfare of World War I. In the second half of the book, he looks at different artistic media - film, popular art, novels, and poetry - in an attempt to distill how they dealt differently with the loss, guilt, and trauma that was visited upon them by the War.

We often think that the soldiers who fell in the War as Americans or Europeans, but of course some were from as far away as Australia.
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