War Tourisms: ‘Englishness’, Art and the First World War

War Tourisms: ‘Englishness’, Art and the First World War

  • Author: Sue Malvern
  • Date: June 2001
  • Source: Oxford Art Journal;2001, Vol. 24 Issue 1, p45

article button on computer keyboard keyThis article analyses how constructions of Englishness and landscape in the First World War and after were marked by a series of double displacements. British official war artists’ work was published as propaganda. In books such as The Western Front, northern France was judged against an ‘Englishness’ itself being renegotiated through its encounter with imagined German stereotype. After the war, a market for organized tours to the ‘Silent Cities’ of British war cemeteries on the actual battlefields developed while artists began anxiously to tour the English landscape searching for a lost completeness and identity as a poetic counterpart to a missing generation killed in the war. The land is often imagined as feminine in images of replenishment, nurture, and fertility, but I argue here that during and after the Great War, through ritualized encounters of war and peace, home and abroad, a complex gendering of ‘Englishness’ was worked out in landscapes, imagined both as female and male, and sometimes understood as literally composed of bodies.

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