Classicism and War in the 20th Century

Christine de Matos Announcement
Subject Fields
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Classical Studies, Contemporary History, Cultural History / Studies, Social History / Studies

The classical worlds of Greece and Rome inspired many writers and artists during and after the Great War, and encouraged, in turn, significant themes within the war memorial movement. Indeed, classical influences and symbols can be found in public artworks across the world, from the Diamond War Memorial Winged Victory in Northern Ireland, completed in 1927, to a mural in a 21st century kebab shop in Cooma, a town in NSW Australia, where an imagined WWI landscape portrays the Dardanelles on one side with poppies, on the other with a Trojan horse. In her analysis of the ideal classical male body as inspiration for rebuilding damaged men returning from the war, Ana Carden-Coyne (1999: 149) calls this revival an attempt to ‘out-classicise the ancients’; to build an even better modern model of classical Greek physical and military manhood (Midford, 2011). While new movements in art and architecture emerged in the postwar world, ancient histories still provided a ‘language of mourning’, constructed a sense of meaning to guard against nihilism and disillusionment, and acted as an ‘agent of reconstruction’ (Carden-Coyne, 2009: 109). Thus, the links between the Great War and the classical world are perhaps more ubiquitous and constant than at first perceived.

What is perhaps more surprising is that the classical aesthetic continued to inspire objects of commemoration after the Second World War and into the Cold War. There is less scholarship in this area, therefore one question to ask is to what extent did that conflict disrupt the narrative and language of classicism in war commemoration that was so visible between the wars?

The focus of this journal issue will be broad, examining anything from tangible material evidence to the more intangible, psychological impact of classicism on recovery and healing. It will explore the reconstruction of lives, identities and society within the framework of a revived but modernised classicism, and interrogate the long legacy of classicism as an enduring commemorative aesthetic. The time periods may include (post)WWI, between the wars, (post)WWII, or the Cold War in any international context. Topics may include classical influences:

  • and the postwar body;
  • in postwar memorialisation and architecture;
  • on commemoration;
  • in wartime and postwar writing, including letter writing from the battlefront;
  • in postwar artistic movements and film; and/or
  • on national identity.

Please send your 300-word proposal for the issue by 17 April 2023. Please also include a short bio (up to 200 words) and, if available, a link to your web or ORCID profile.

The expected timeline is:

  1. Notification of outcome of proposal:                                                      29 May 2023
  2. Successful proposals to submit full paper for editorial review:          18 December 2023
  3. Feedback to authors:                                                                                  by 25 March 2024
  4. Revised paper due to editors:                                                                   24 June 2024
  5. Submit final paper to journal for peer review:                                       by June/July 2024
  6. Expected publication:                                                                                 2025

The editors of the issue are Christine de Matos, Karen McCluskey (The University of Notre Dame Australia) and Ana Carden-Coyne (The University of Manchester). The special issue is expected to be published in the Journal of War & Culture Studies.

Contact Information

Karen McCluskey

Contact Email