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Since some H-War members are interested in art and the military, they might want to attend this lecture on February 16 at the University of Leicester, in London. The painting itself is at the University of Michigan. http://www.umma.umich.edu/collections/acquisitions/wright.html Here is the lecture announcement. Jonathan Beard firstname.lastname@example.org ________________________________________ Our world, it seems, is saturated with images of death and destruction. We routinely devour the horrors of war in newspapers, television, film and, increasingly, the Internet. Why do such images maintain such an appeal? How does something so repellent – the sight of a dead or wounded soldier, a devastated village, a father cradling his dying child – become an object of fascination? Has war become a spectator sport in which we forget how real men and women suffer in the pursuit of conquest? And is this compulsion for images of warfare any different from that of our forebears? These are some of the provocative questions Professor Philip Shaw will be discussing on Tuesday 16th February in his inaugural lecture: 'Suffering and Sentiment in Romantic Military Art'. He explained: "There is no doubt that our consumption of war imagery is a form of 'appetite' in us, related at some level to the dark, unsettling aspects of the human psyche. This is not a new phenomenon. The late 19th century British Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge noted it in his poem 'Fears in Solitude' (written in April 1798, during the alarm of a French invasion): We, this whole people, have been clamorous For war and bloodshed; animating sports, The which we pay for as a thing to talk of, Spectators and not combatants! "The notion of war as an object of desire, providing pleasure of a fearful or terrifying nature, has a long history. The eighteenth-century theorist Edmund Burke was not alone in regarding war as a source of the sublime. "Then, as now, war is often presented to the public as a form of spectator sport. In the 21st century we gaze in rapt attention at television news coverage of the latest events in Iraq or Afghanistan, perhaps even enjoying, at some perverse level, the shocking sights of maimed and dismembered bodies. "The fact that so many of these apparently realistic scenes are carefully contrived in the editing suites of the Sky, Fox and NBC corporations frequently passes us by. "Our desire for entertainment leads, paradoxically, to a lessening of effect, which in turns feeds back into the insatiable demand for more footage, more shocking sights of woe. The technical vocabulary of 'smart weaponry', 'friendly fire', 'surgical strike', 'precision bombing' and 'collateral damage' contributes to this numbing effect. "A combination of managerial, scientific and quasi-legal rhetoric conspires to mask the brute realities of war. I think the alienated spectator realises at some level that something is missing, and it is perhaps the awareness of this absence that intensifies our wish to see more of that of which we are denied: the image of a body in pain, suffering on our behalf." Professor Shaw's talk will focus on Joseph Wright of Derby's painting The Dead Soldier, depicting a dead soldier, his grieving widow and newly orphaned child. Unusually for military art of the period it shows the suffering of a common soldier and also highlights the effect of combat on the soldier's dependents. The picture moved the poet William Hayley to tears, and his emotional response was not unique in the eighteenth century culture of sentiment, which encouraged sympathetic responses to scenes of abjection to enforce paternalistic ties between upper and lower classes. In his lecture Professor Shaw will ask what is at stake in these tears and will argue that at one level our display of sympathy becomes a proof of humanity, a sign that at some deep, visceral level, we have the capacity to see through the dehumanising rhetoric of war. However, we must also ask, he says, 'how the display of sympathy becomes a part of the very system that perpetuates war. To what extent, in other words, does the logic of sacrifice (the soldier hero dies so that we, the nation, may be free), feed off our tears? "As representative men of feeling, Coleridge, Hayley and Wright have much to tell us about the close conspiratorial connection between suffering and sentiment." Professor Philip Shaw's inaugural lecture, 'Suffering and Sentiment in Romantic Military Art' will take place on Tuesday 16th February 2009 at 5.30pm in Lecture Theatre 1 in the Ken Edwards Building on the University of Leicester's main campus. -- Jonathan D. Beard <email@example.com> ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----