When a man is left behind in battle—captured, killed in action, injured beyond help—the burden of his life lies heavy on his former comrades, who carry survivor trauma that shapes their post-war masculinity. This hegemonic masculine ethos of homosocial obligation carries into the larger culture and reflects in literature from the Revolutionary War through the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. When these characters should be illustrating Anthony Rotundo’s chronological models of American manhood, the scene of the soldier left behind impedes a fully individualized development into adult masculinity because trauma has become a constant companion in place of the fallen comrade.
This panel seeks to explore how the masculine obligation to same-sex peers figures in pivotal moments of American texts involving war. Textual examples might include Hawthorne’s “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” Whitman’s Drum-Taps, Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms, O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and Turner’s Here, Bullet as well as movies like Platoon, Blackhawk Down, and Saving Private Ryan. While several studies have examined literary representations of war and masculinity (e.g., Kimberly Hutchings, Christina Jarvis, David Yost) and many others have looked at masculine homosociality, this panel will focus on how the character of the surviving soldier challenges conventional stages of American manhood.
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