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Sacrifice and Modern War LiteratureThe Battle of Waterloo to the War on Terror$
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Alex Houen and Jan-Melissa Schramm

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198806516

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198806516.001.0001

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The Vietnam War, American Remembering, and the Measure of Sacrifice, Fifty Years On

The Vietnam War, American Remembering, and the Measure of Sacrifice, Fifty Years On

(p.207) 13 The Vietnam War, American Remembering, and the Measure of Sacrifice, Fifty Years On
Sacrifice and Modern War Literature

Philip Beidler

Oxford University Press

Fifty years on, the American experience of the Vietnam War seems suspended between ancient history and rapidly fading cultural memory; or perhaps consigned to the vicissitudes of that habit of negotiating between history (what happened) and memory (how it is retrospectively mythologized). This chapter considers Vietnam War writings, including Michael Herr’s Dispatches (1977), and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried (1990), as well as popular music and films such as Oliver Stone’s Platoon (1986) and Robert Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump (1994), in relation to the cultural lineage of those negotiations between history and memory. It considers literary engagements with more recent wars—such as Kevin Powers’ Iraq war novel Yellow Birds (2012)—that hark back to the Vietnam War. In discussing the war’s mythologizations and commemorations across history, the chapter explores the extent to which the Vietnam War has been seen to involve sacrifices that are politically and culturally redemptive.

Keywords:   Vietnam War, sacrifice, war on terror, mythologization, commemoration, redemption, popular music, film, Tim O’Brien

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