America’s involvement in the First World War, as far as facts, military or economic, go to show, was, if not minimal, not particularly considerable either. While the rest of the Western world was plunged in soul-searing destruction and chaos, America enjoyed a safe neutrality on a material plane, even benefiting from a sale of arms and ammunition as well as non-military goods to an economically depleted Europe. Yet, this ‘war to end all wars’ which had an undeniable global impact, was to cause irreversible and, in some cases radical, changes in American literature, life, and art . Not only did it kick-start the belated arrival of Modernism in America with the return of a war-traumatized ‘lost generation’ of writers and artists who had been witness to this ‘crisis in civilization’, as Dreiser was to describe it, but it also was to liberate the African-American from age-old Black stereotypes and, in a resurrection of racial pride and self-awareness, lead to the flowering of the Harlem Renaissance. Though unforeseen, an interesting fallout also of this calamitous event, was an enrichment of the liberal arts, painting and music in particular, caused by the interaction between the two continents which were brought into inevitable proximity.
The essays in our present collection, however selective, look at the subject from unexplored points of view to assess the paradoxical contribution of a major destructive event in human history to art and literature. Read at a one-day seminar as they were, they are, of necessity, brief and empirical, yet, ultimately, they illustrate a humanistic approach.
The contributors for this issue are:
Sukla Basu Sen, Professor, Visva Bharati
Somdatta Mandal, Professor, Visva Bharati
Suddhaseel Sen, Associate Professor, Presidency University
Argha Banerjee, Dean, Faculty of Arts, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata
Christina Mirza, Assoc. Professor, St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata
Sudeshna Chakravorty, Assistant Professor, Sushil Kar College, Kolkata
Prama Ghosh and Saradia Chatterjee, Undergraduate students, Presidency University