Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2021

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Jonathan Flatley


This dissertation examines literary resistance to US militarism since 1945. I maintain that a requirement of antiwar literature is a disruption or break from the pro-war narrative that seeks to justify and normalize the wars and militarism that saturate this historical period; literary works about war that do not deviate from this narrative are simply war literature. In chapters on John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946), poetry and performance protests of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (1970-72), Rob Halpern’s Common Place (2015), and works of speculative fiction by Omar El Akkad (American War, 2017) and N.K. Jemisin (The Fifth Season, 2015), I argue that we cannot understand the specific formal principles at work in antiwar texts unless we account for the ways in which those practices are motivated to contest given pro-war ideologies and structures of feelings or to inspire or sustain antiwar practices. This motivation is conveyed in a range of ways, attuned to historical context and generic affordances, and explicating these various methods of literarily representing an antiwar position and antiwar sentiment across different wars and via different literary genres produces a broader sense of what a political work of literature could be expected to do throughout this period of US history.In my examination of US literature since 1945 through the lens of antiwar literature, I reached the following historical and theoretical conclusions. The historical conclusion is that in the period of time from the end of the Second World War (1945) to the first two decades of the 21st century, US antiwar literature has demonstrated a continuing disenchantment with national politics alongside a skepticism about what literature does or can do in terms of political formation through aesthetic experience. The theoretical conclusion that my analysis in each chapter supports is that to be antiwar as a political position also requires the critique of the nation-state as a form and of state ideological formations around race, gender, and sexuality.