The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body

By Laura Wittman

© 2011

At the end of the First World War, countries across Europe participated in an unprecedented ritual in which a single, anonymous body was buried to symbolize the overwhelming trauma of the battlefields. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier explores the creation and reception of this symbolic national burial as an emblem for modern mourning.

Bringing together literature, newspaper accounts, wartime correspondence, and popular culture, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier examines how the Unknown Soldier was imagined in diverse national contexts and used by radically opposed political parties. Laura Wittman argues that this monument established a connection between the wounded body vulnerable to the war machine and a modern identity defined by common mortality and social alienation. Highly original and interdisciplinary, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier powerfully links the symbolic language and ethics of mourning to a fascinating national ritual.

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Product Details

  • Series: Toronto Italian Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 464 pages
  • Illustrations: 20
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.3in x 9.3in
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SKU# SP003162

  • PUBLISHED JUN 2011

    From: $73.50

    Regular Price: $98.00

    ISBN 9781442643390
  • PUBLISHED DEC 2011

    From: $88.50

    Regular Price: $118.00

Quick Overview

At the end of the First World War, countries across Europe participated in an unprecedented ritual in which a single, anonymous body was buried to symbolize the overwhelming trauma of the battlefields; The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier explores the creation and reception of this symbolic national burial as an emblem for modern mourning.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Modern Mourning, and the Reinvention of the Mystical Body

By Laura Wittman

© 2011

At the end of the First World War, countries across Europe participated in an unprecedented ritual in which a single, anonymous body was buried to symbolize the overwhelming trauma of the battlefields. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier explores the creation and reception of this symbolic national burial as an emblem for modern mourning.

Bringing together literature, newspaper accounts, wartime correspondence, and popular culture, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier examines how the Unknown Soldier was imagined in diverse national contexts and used by radically opposed political parties. Laura Wittman argues that this monument established a connection between the wounded body vulnerable to the war machine and a modern identity defined by common mortality and social alienation. Highly original and interdisciplinary, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier powerfully links the symbolic language and ethics of mourning to a fascinating national ritual.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Toronto Italian Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 464 pages
  • Illustrations: 20
  • Dimensions: 6.3in x 1.3in x 9.3in
  • Reviews

    ‘This is an interesting, innovative meditation on French and Italian Literary responses to anonymous wartime mortality across a broad chronological time span… primarily of interest to those working on literature, it will also be of value to historians specializing on Italy and the Great War.’


    Heather Jones
    The Journal of Modern History, vol 85:03:2013

    ‘Fine monograph… Laura Wittman addresses the topic with an impressive breadth of sources and depth of analysis. The book is an original and compelling work of scholarship.’


    Thomas Patrick Wisniewski
    Italian Culture, vol 32:01:2014
  • Author Information

    Laura Wittman is an assistant professor in the Department of French and Italian at Stanford University.

  • Table of contents

    Introduction

    PART ONE: Anonymity and Sacrifice

    1. Introduction: The Return of the Dead
      1. A Unanimous Idea
      2. Unanimity and confused bones
      3. The origins of the Unknown Soldier
      4. The primal scene
    2. Identification and Chorality
      1. Bones manifest themselves
      2. Recognition, or reaching across the divide of living and dead
      3. Sculpted water
      4. A silent inscription
    3. Sacrifice and the non finito
      1. Taking up anonymity
      2. Absolution
      3. Initiation

    PART TWO: Embodiment and Spectacle

    1. Introduction: The Undead Body, The Photographic Image, and the Religious Icon
      1. Embodiment and Imbestiamento
      2. Trauma and animality
      3. The symbolic journey
      4. The darkness within
    2. Mutilation and Spectacle
      1. Phantom pain, mutilation, and repetition
      2. Touching the absent body: the "Banner of Randaccio"
      3. Transmitting the experience of death: Promethean fire
    3. Mourning Transcendence and Reenchanting the Flesh
      1. Confronting Mortality
      2. Mourning Transcendence
      3. Modernity and the Mystical Body

    Conclusion

    Bibliography
    Notes
    Illustrations

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