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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.65, No.4, 563 ~ 587, 2019
Virtual War: States of Prolepsis and the Aesthetics of Violence
Paul Giles
This paper discusses ways in which the definition of war has become more amorphous in the twenty-first century, being displaced from a series of material conflicts typically organized through competing national ideologies to a more generalized state of collective anxiety and terror. This shift in the definition of war is linked to technology and equated with similar shifts in the discursive patterns of medicine. The paper suggests that such a reorientation of the meaning of war allows us to reconsider literary history, with particular attention to the ways in which civil wars throughout history created fissures and lingering tensions within the body of a nation state. It also suggests that civil wars might be understood as precursors to transnational understandings of a national body, one always already fractured. By indicating how the rhetoric of war has long been embedded in various ways within English and American literary history, this paper offers new ways of understanding the relationship between war and society. Despite the tendency of war to lend itself to retrospective mythologies consolidating national identity, this paper suggests that war is always a scene of multiple ambiguities. With reference to Salvador Dali’s painting The Face of War and Wilfred Owen’s poem “Strange Meeting”, it also suggests ways in which war may serve to illuminate some of the strangeness and alienation inherent within the human condition.
Key Words
Virtuality, Civil War, National Identity, Transnationalism, Psychoanalysis
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