Ceremonials and the War of Nerves

Glenn Watkins

in Proof through the Night

Published by University of California Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780520231580
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520927896 | DOI:
Ceremonials and the War of Nerves

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Ceremonies centering on the remembrance of soldiers who had fallen in battle proved crucial to the consolidation of a post-Great War psyche, and the various shrines of the Unknown Soldier that appeared in virtually every country attested to the purgative value of such commemorative sites. In 1917, Charles Villiers Stanford wrote an organ sonata with a Great War motif, subtitled “Eroica.” That the nostalgia carried by many of the tunes of the period preserved their power for later generations was made evident in a ceremony of May 14, 1998 at Arlington National Cemetery. Among the multiple characterizations of the post-Armistice period, the one cited most frequently was neurasthenic exhaustion. Not only had the idea of the soldiers' frayed nerves been medically acknowledged in the expression “shell shock,” but society at large had also become increasingly aware that it was no simple matter to pick up where they had left off at the outset of the war. This chapter also examines jazz and the “lost generation,” as well as George Antheil and the suppression of sentiment.

Keywords: Great War; ceremonies; remembrance; soldiers; Charles Villiers Stanford; Arlington National Cemetery; shell shock; jazz; lost generation; George Antheil

Chapter.  5021 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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