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Collages of Redefinition and Resistance: Scrapbooks, Memorial, and American Society during World War I

By Thomas Gundy


The entry of the United States into World War I signaled a new internationalism for the American state. While the idealism of the Wilsonian era was not uniform throughout American society, the vision for which he advocated was influential, especially because of Wilson’s direct appeals to the American public. Meanwhile, the fighting of the war in faraway Europe was destroying a generation of men. Many Americans, including influential political and military figures, thought that the war would be an opportunity for heroic soldiers to fight a noble, glorious crusade, a perception that had long since given way to war-weariness and cynicism in Europe, but the American Expeditionary Force soon confronted the harsh realities of modern war on the western front. This thesis is concerned with the memorialization of the war in the United States within the scope of both American perceptions of the war and its brutal physicality on the front. It analyzes a series of World War I scrapbooks created by Americans with different relationships to the war: soldier, Red Cross worker, widow, town archivist. Each of these scrapbooks functioned as personal war memorials that commemorated certain aspects of the war, each supporting, challenging, and modifying social understandings of what it meant to be an American during World War I. This thesis argues that these scrapbooks constituted an act of resistance against the bodily anonymity the war wrought and represented a way in which Americans made sense of their place in both the United States and the world as the United States changed during the World War I period

Year: 2016
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