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John S. Bak (U. Lorraine): “‘The paper cannot live by poems alone’: World War I Trench Journals as (Proto-) Literary Journalism” (Seminaris de recerca de l'ILCC 2016)
29/01/2016 12:00
29/01/2016 14:00
Sala de l'ILCC (Fac. de Lletres, St. Domènec II, 5è pis)
Institut de Llengua i Cultura Catalanes
Assistència lliure

1a sessió dels Seminaris de Recerca de l'ILCC 2016

Divendres, 29 de gener, a les 12 h

Sala de l'ILCC (Fac. de Lletres, St. Domènec II, 5è pis)


John S. Bak (U. Lorraine):

“‘The paper cannot live by poems alone’: World War I Trench Journals as (Proto-)Literary Journalism” 



Trench journals – soldier newspapers or unit magazines which intermix serious journalism, poetry and satirical cartoons with sports reports and other troop persiflage – were produced by and for the various regiments of nearly all the nations participating in the war. Published weekly or monthly or whenever lulls in the fighting were long enough to allow for their production, the periodicals vary in length and professionalism, from the early handwritten and purple-ink journaux des tranchées in France of four pages, to those professionally typeset and printed journals in Germany (or German-occupied territories) that ran from eight to sixteen pages. Nearly every regiment had its own trench newspaper, which was used as a way to raise morale among the troops and to diffuse to the home front the stories left untold in the censored and jingoistic press. As media historian Robert L. Nelson writes, these soldier newspapers “were written for – and shared among – a massive, yet distinct community of (almost solely) men seeking daily justification and motivation for – and an understanding of – their often extreme circumstances” (1914–1918 online).

As historical documents, trench journals’ worth is measureless; as sources of literary journalism,  however, their value remains unexplored. This talk's goal is twofold: first, to explore the manner in which narrative news reporting, particularly at traumatic times, is often privileged over hard news reporting due to its ability to help heal the writer and soothe the reader, a phenomenon often experienced with literary journalism later in the 20th century; and second, to determine whether or not the nonfiction pieces produced within these trench journals represent early literary journalistic styles of their respective nations, be it the local color sketches and columns of the North American press, or the literary dispatches of European reportage.

Brief CV

John S. Bak is Professeur at the Université de Lorraine in France. He holds degrees from the University of Illinois, Ball State University and the Sorbonne in Paris. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the Univerzity Palackého in the Czech Republic in 1995 and Visiting Fellow at Harvard University (2011), Columbia University (2013) and the University of Texas at Austin (2014). He is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow at Wolfson College, University of Oxford. His edited books include Tennessee Williams and Europe (Rodopi, 2014) Literary Journalism across the Globe: Journalistic Traditions and Transnational Influences (co-edited with Bill Reynolds, 2011) and New Selected Essays: Where I Live (New Directions, 2009). He is the author of the monographs Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, and Queer Masculinities (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2009) and Tennessee Williams: A Literary Life (Palgrave, 2013).