Peace Literature

Several members of the Visualising Peace project have been researching representations of peace in different kinds of literature, and the role played by literature in shaping our habits of visualising peace.

Student Thomas Frost has explored a range of literary representations of peace via some entries in our virtual Museum of Peace, such as this item on Little Gidding by T.S. Eliot, this on The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg, and another piece on Hogg’s The Brownie of Bodsbeck. He has reflected more broadly on James Hogg as a peacemaker in an essay he wrote for a joint project on post-conflict identities, exploring what this 19-century Scottish novelist can teach us about Anglo-Scottish relations, peace-building through writing, and the formation/marginalisation of identities in the wake of conflict. Thomas engages particularly with scholarly and practical work on narrative and storytelling as peace-building practices, helping us to read Hogg’s work in new ways – both as an exploration of post-conflict identities in its own time and as a valuable case study for today in paying more attention to marginalised voices today. It shines a light on the potential of writing not just to comment on but also to shape real-world approaches to peace-building.

Thomas’ work on peace writing and peace literature has inspired him to create a ‘peace hyperanthology‘ – i.e. a poetry anthology centred around the theme of peace. We encourage you to browse it yourself!

The Hyperanthology contains 40 poems and extracts from poems in the public domain which all represent or reflect on peace in some way. Where one of them uses the same or a similar image of peace as another, the image has been turned into a hyperlink which will take you to another randomly selected poem using a comparable image. Some images of peace occur in most of the poems, while others occur only in a couple. The aim of this resource is to facilitate comparison of recurring images of peace across multiple contexts, which in turn will help us think critically about the different ways in which peace has been (and can be) visualised…

The Visualising Peace project understands narratives as a world-building tool: the stories that we tell and the pictures that we paint do not just reflect the world we live in but also help to shape it, by influencing our habits of thought and behaviour. What kind of world do these poems reflect, and what kinds of peace might they encourage us to build? How influential do you think poetry of this sort has been in cementing particular ideas/ideals of peace? If you were writing a peace poem, what images might you include or reject, and why?

Thomas Frost, introducing his Peace Hyperanthology

Student Christy Foreshaw has been researching peace writing in the context of 20th-century South American literature. In this presentation, Christy discusses some theoretical scholarship on ‘peace literature’ and reflects on some examples she has found of this little-studied genre in South American literature. She discusses how thinking about ‘peace literature’ as a genre can help us reframe, rethink and re-engage with texts which we often classify and interpret in different (more conflict-focused) ways. In this blog, she reflects on the relationship between peace literature and peace activism, looking particularly at Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967) and Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (1982).

Meanwhile, student Albert Surinach I Campos has been researching representations of peace and peacebuilding in the works and later reception of Tolkien. He offers an introduction here, with broader reflections on peace literature; and he analyses Tolkien’s visions of peace/conflict in human-environment relations in this museum entry. Albert has been analysing contemporary and later illustrations of Tolkien’s novels, to explore changing levels of emphasis on war and peace in connection with contemporary events; and in this podcast he and Tolkien expert Prof. Giuseppe Pezzini explore the nuance and complexity of Tolkien’s visions of peace in The Lord of the Rings.

Among other activities, we are researching what kinds of ‘peace literature’ are taught (and how they are framed) in different educational settings, and we are developing some new pedagogic resources that build on recent research in both peace literature and peace education.

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