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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name



Classical and Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

First Advisor

Alina A. Cherry



The theme of war is longstanding. Since ancient times, still dominant in the Middle Ages, and for centuries, especially in the 20th century, war becomes one of the central topics addressed by writers. To say, to write, and rewrite the war is to scream, to unveil, to denounce and to learn from the catastrophe that the world has experienced. This is how the Great War is revealed from one generation to the next, so as to prolong through memories and records the experience and knowledge of its devastation. In this dissertation, I examine representations of World War I, the reimagining of history from traces of the past, and the relationship between history and literature in three contemporary novels: Claude Simon's L’Acacia (1989), Jean Rouaud’s Les champs d’honneur (1990) and Jean Echenoz’s 14 (2012). Throughout this study, I address the aforementioned topics through a historiographical approach. My dissertation considers the representation of the Great War by way of the different documents that the three novels under discussion evoke. Moreover, I analyze the novelistic approach that these authors take on archival traces, history, and the intertwining of fiction and history by drawing on the theoretical insights of Paul Ricœur, Arlette Farge, and Hayden White. These authors challenge the traditional narrative chronological order by following an order of events dictated by memory rather than the actual timeline. To support this argument, I refer to several theories on memory advanced by Ricœur in Memory, History, Forgetting and Time and Narrative. My perspective draws on Ricœur’s reflection on the links between memory and history. I argue that although numerous traces constitute written pieces of documentation (such as family archives), these records are still based on, or dictated by memory, which makes them reliable only to a certain extent. In addition, I analyze how and why these authors, who did not actively participate in the Great War, have turned to this historical event. More specifically, I contend that the gap between collective memory and personal memories, which all of the three novels exploit, gives us insights into the reasons why these authors are narrating the Great War. It is rather their vocation as writers that leads them to write as writing is also a weapon against war. As a result, Simon, Rouaud and Echenoz conceived their work well, and even achieved a form which ensures its literary dimension and universal dignity.

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