ARCHIVES: Imaginative Representations of Vietnam War, La Salle University
Date: Mon, 07 Aug 1995 13:34:22 -0500
[Co-editor's note: The day after the resumption of USA-Vietnam diplomatic relations is an opportune moment to post this description of a valuable archival respository of imaginative representations of the Vietnam War. In response to my query about the inclusion of Vietnamese emigree writers and artists, John S. Baky, Director of Libraries at La Salle University, writes that "the Collection indeed includes and encourges material written by the emigre community. The material so far is limited but it grows apace. Particularly in film representation one would find hundreds of images of the refugee, boatpeople, emigre community, "little Saigons," "Vietnamese Mafia," etc. Now, with the opening of the PRVN, I expect the print representations to accelerate. I have updated the description below to reflect this." JB]
mythopoeic. That is, how a complex event may be interpreted through creative means;
to reveal both the fact and emotional essence of traumatic cultural phenomena.
The primary resources for studying the above two processes are gathered in a collection presently consisting of about 9,000 books of fiction and poetry together with 600 non-print items. Additionally, more than 600 films and videos are available. These films include narrative, commercial (Hollywood), pornography, and art films, as well as documentary films, curricular production, taped seminars, and extensive TV-generated material.
THE COLLECTION IS LIMITED INTENTIONALLY TO IMAGINATIVE LITERATURE AND THE VISUAL ARTS. The Collection is focused on fictive writing in the form of novels, short stories, poetry, drama, filmscripts, extensive examples of graphic art, painting, video, TV productions, and sound recordings.
Contained in this Collection, and additional to the published written material itself, are unpublished manuscripts, corrected manuscripts, shooting scripts, galley proofs, page proofs (corrected and uncorrected), holograph copies, limited editions, variant editions, rungs of comic books, and cartoon art. The remainder of the Collection consists of carefully catalogued items of ephemera such as poetry broadsides, dealer's catalogs of Vietnam War fiction, published strategy games, published software, vanity publications, and curriculum guides for teaching the war through its literature across many educational levels and curricula.
The Collection is intentionally strong in material produced after 1980, though virtually every earlier title that appears in the 3rd edition of John Newman's VIETNAM WAR LITERATURE also exists in the La Salle Collection. In view of that comparison, it is a fundamental goal of the Collection to make available literature that demonstrates the evolution of the perceptions of the war experienced AFTER the event had actually ended. The Collection is particularly committed to illuminating the process by which fictional narrative becomes mythopoeic. In using this Collection, it is possible to both question and document the sources of developing myths about the war experience. For example, one may examine and measure the impact of the original event by seeing how the experience is presented to the public through imaginative renderings. Using hundreds of examples, one can compare systematically how the post-1975 presentations and perceptions of war differ qualitatively from pre-1975 material. The more than 600 films and videos are of seminal utility in this connection. A growing sector of the Collection is composed of imaginative representations of Vietnamese refugees during and after the American conflict. As well, there is material representing the growing influence of the Vietnamese emigre community as it establishes itself in American culture. This would include typical hybrid mythic constructions such as the "the Vietnamese Mafia," rags-to-riches narratives similar in spirit and naiete to the Horatio Algeresque tales of of early 20th-century America, young adult fiction, and thinly veiled right-wing political diatribes posing as fiction.
More globally, serious scholarly inquiry can be conducted concerning the elusive distinction between fictional narrative and autobiographical perception. The interrogation of this Coleridge-like chimera that mocks and distorts the reflexive distinctions between narrative memory and interpretive imagination fuels the enduring intellectual vigor of this Collection.
In direct support of the written and cinematic dimensions of the Collection are actively developed collections of graphic arts (posters, prints, collage, ephemera, etc.) featuring such material as ten original silk screen propaganda posters presented to Denise Levertov during the poet's trip to Hanoi in 1972. Additionally, artifacts of a musical/sound recording nature include tapes of Hanoi Hannah, recordings of Armed Forces Radio broadcasts from Saigon and Danang, tapes of attacks in progress recorded during the onslaught of Tet, underground tapes of GI music broadcasts in-country, and sound tracks of most films released about the war.
Comments so far made by the scores of visiting scholars who have examined the Collection indicate that the Collection is unique in its depth, peerless in its breadth, and that is is the largest subject collection its kind in the world. Inquiries may be made to the address below, or by email.
John S. Baky firstname.lastname@example.org Director of Libraries 215/951-1285 (office) Connelly Library 215/951-1595 (fax) La Salle University 1900 W. Olney Phila., PA 19141-1199
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