World War I and the great changes it wrought

November 25, 2019 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: history, journalism.

I am a great advocate of the Great War, more often called World War I.

It’s not that I think that it should have happened, of course, but I think the all-inclusiveness and horror of World War II often overshadow it, and its influence on our politics and our society is frequently forgotten.

People who lived through the Great War never forgot it, even though as with all wars, they tried mightily. The raucous Roaring Twenties was an outward manifestation of that self-induced amnesia.

But it didn’t work. Once the roar had died down by the end of the decade, the memory of the Great War was all too present.

WNYC’s Sara Fishko has produced a 55-minute podcast on the lingering effects of the Great War on modern art and life in Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture.

World War I presented civilization with unprecedented violence and destruction. The shock of the first modern, “industrial” war extended far into the 20th century and even into the 21st, and changed how people saw the world and themselves. And that was reflected in the cultural responses to the war – which included a burgeoning obsession with beauty and body image, the birth of jazz, new thinking about the human psyche, the Harlem Renaissance, Surrealism…and more. Source: OTM presents: Shell Shock 1919: How the Great War Changed Culture | On the Media | WNYC Studios

Set aside an hour and listen to what Fishko and the people she interviews have to say. You, too, may become an advocate of the Great War.

Illustration: Ernest Clifford Peixotto, a U.S. Army combat artist. Before the war, he was a famous magazine and book illustrator. Many of his World War I pictures are, like this one, were executed in 1918 and emphasized the ruins of the French countryside.

For more about combat artists in World War I, see Picturing World War I: America’s First Official War Artists, 1918-1919


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