This bibliographic essay originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of Choice (volume 50 | number 7).
What Americans now call World War I—and the French refer to as La Guerre 14-18—was until World War II widely referred to as the Great War. (This essay uses “World War I” and “the Great War” interchangeably.) The war took a human toll beyond that of any other war in history, if not in the number of casualties, certainly in the magnitude of human devastation experienced by combatants and civilians alike. And yet artistic expression persisted. Painting, poetry, and novels conveyed impressions of the horrors and perhaps offered some release for survivors in the aftermath. During the war years, theater, motion pictures, and music served to boost the morale of the troops and rally support on the home front. The role of the arts during the four years of the war—when civilization seemingly sank to its nadir—is a subject far too vast for one essay, as is the importance of the arts in reflecting on and memorializing the tribulations of the war in subsequent years. This essay focuses on the performing arts, mainly theater but incorporating a few significant related works on music, film, and graphic arts; it covers only the work of the Allies, notably France, Great Britain, and the United States.
Felicia Hardison Londré is Curators’ Professor of Theater at the University of Missouri—Kansas City.