Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War

TitleDeath So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsVance, Jonathan F.
Number of Pages332
PublisherUniversity of British Columbia Press

Beginning with the armistice in 1918, Canadians constructed a version of the First World War that stressed traditional values, continuity, and the positive results of the war experience. In Death So Noble, Jonathan Vance examines this mythical reconstruction, arguing that it sought to justify the war by emphasizing Canada's role as defender of civilization and Christianity. He also recounts how the myth's proponents responded to alternative and conflicting visions of the war, and discusses what the myth was intended to achieve in interwar Canada - a sense of nationhood. Death So Noble takes an unorthodox look at the Canadian war experience. It views the Great War as a cultural and philosophical force rather than as a political and military event. Thematically organized into such subjects as the symbolism of the soldier, the implications of war memory for Canadian nationalism, and the idea of a just war, the book draws on memoirs, war memorials, newspaper reports, fiction, popular songs, film, plays, and many other sources. In each case Vance distinguishes between the objective realities of the war and the way that contemporaries remembered it. Jonathan Vance emphasizes the persistence of traditional Victorian values in Canada up to 1939 and the resistance of the old order to changes wrought by the First World War. In this way his conclusions differ from those of earlier writers such as Paul Fussell, Samuel Hynes, and Modris Eksteins, who stressed the forces of innovation unleashed by the war.

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