Deadline for submissions: January 15, 2017

Full name / name of organization: John S. Bak / IDEA, Université de Lorraine
Contact email:
Deadline for proposals: 15 January 2017

Working in partnership with various research centers – Oxford Centre for Life-Writing (Wolfson College, Oxford University, UK), Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern University, USA), ReSIC (Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium), and the Experimental Media Lab (Academy of Fine Arts Saar, Germany) – the research group I.D.E.A. (“Théories et pratiques de l’interdisciplinarité dans les études anglophones”) and the Universidad de Málaga are announcing a call for papers for the conference “Literary Journalism and Civil War.” The conference will be held at the Facultad de Ciencias de la Comunicación, University of Málaga. The keynote speakers will be Mirta Núñez Díaz Balart (Universidad Complutense de Madrid) and Alberto Lázaro (Universidad de Alcalá).

A Press Divided: Newspaper Coverage of the Civil War (2014), edited by David B. Sachsman, examines the impact that Northern and Southern presses had on the mediaization of the American Civil War, in particular how both sides’ lack of objective reporting on the people and events leading up to, during, and following the war capture a nation not simply divided but wholly fragmented. In the context of a civil war, journalists are faced with the paradox of covering the war’s tragedies and simultaneously celebrating its victories in some grand, national narrative typical of jingoistic war reporting. When brothers are killing brothers, whom do you choose to support and can you ethically demonize the Other?

Literary journalism – or journalism as literature – has proven over time to be one way of tackling the moral ambivalence of civil war reporting by transposing the complexity of values that are at stake. It is not enough to praise military victories – military interventions during civil wars cannot be separated from civilian ones – because the enemy cannot be entirely distinguished and thus dehumanized, since it would make reconciliation near impossible after the war has ended. This journalistic conundrum begs a subjective style of war reporting that can offer more than factographic details of a given battle, that can provide context, commentary and narrative, and that can reveal and heal simultaneously the nation’s gaping wounds.

Concerning the American Civil War in particular, Ford Risley, in Civil War Journalism (2012), demonstrates that journalism at the time was more than simply writing about people and events; it was also about writing for the people – civilians and soldiers alike – who are central to any civil war. Presses from the North and South alike did so not out on any political or journalistic ideology but out of the humanist need to speak to one’s own people behind the lines, emphasizing individuals’ stories over bipartisan agendas. Since many of accounts of the Civil War come from the American soldiers themselves, who captured their daily lives in the many troop newspapers published on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line, journalism scholars and historians today are recognizing the need to widen the scope of war reporting. Donagh Bracken even claims in The Words of War (2007) that Civil War reporting has laid the foundation for modern American journalism, and that the war has shaped the press as much as the press shaped the war.

Potential questions on American Civil War literary journalism that could be addressed include:

How did war reporters respond to censorship, particularly when it came from their own side?
Is literary war journalism separable from political beliefs? How much do those beliefs influence the authors in their writings?
Is literary journalism only a way to depict events of the moment or is it also a valuable testimony for the future generations on the way their country/nation was shaped?
Black correspondents, such as Thomas Morris Chester, who reported on the conflict along with his fight for abolitionism and racial equality, were under-represented in the American Civil War press. How were African American soldiers represented or self-represented in the press during the American Civil War?
Can literary journalism, like much of the journalism of the way, or of any war, be considered as propaganda given the humanist political beliefs of its author? Is it the sum total of one ideological point of view?
How does literary war journalism tell the stories inside history and give a voice to the people who lived the events of the Civil War?
How did journalism during the American Civil War influence the way American literary journalism developed?
Can journalistic accounts shape the outcome of the war, and can literary journalism (p)refigure the way that war is remembered?
The way journalism evolved during and after the American Civil War influenced the treatment of information in wars to come, from the First World War to the Spanish Civil War a few decades later. It is not by chance, then, that literary journalism as a genre evolved and expanded over time, evidenced in the accounts of the Spanish Civil War by literary authors of international fame, from Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls (1940) to George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (1938), and from prominent Irish socialist Peadar O’Donnell’s Salud! An Irishman in Spain (1937) to anti-communist Eoin O’Duffy’s The Crusade in Spain (1938). Spain’s civil war between the Bando nacional and the Bando sublevado raised the interest of numerous foreign war correspondents – including several female reporters (previously denied access to the front lines), such as Martha Gellhorn, Virginia Cowles, Andrée Viollis, Gerda Taro and Katharine Stewart-Murray, the “Red” Duchess of Atholl – who were drawn there as much if not more or their political beliefs than they were their professional obligations.

In Boadilla, Esmond Romilly writes: “There is something frightening, something shocking about the way the world does not stop because those men are dead.” While the majority of research on Spanish Civil War journalism has focused on these foreign literary journalists, interest is growing on those Spanish writers whose literary war reportages tell the stories from a domestic perspective less bipartisan than the foreign accounts because, as with the American Civil War, they were reporting on brothers and cousins and not Fascists or Communists. Josep Pla, initially tolerant with the Francoists, wrote for the Catalonian newspaper La Veu de Catalunya and distanced himself from the regime when his mother-tongue was banned to private spaces in Spain. Therefore there is not only one kind of literary journalism in Spain during the civil war there, but many, each dealing with a diverse aspect of a common event. The different stories collected from foreign journalists and Spaniards alike on the people affected and displaced by the war show that atrocities were enacted and suffered on both sides of political divide. Historical accounts of the war thus cannot legitimately pit hero against villain, but rather brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, narratives which combine to overcome divisive ideologies and bind the nation’s collective memory.

Potential questions on Spanish Civil War literary journalism that could be addressed include:

Is the evolution of literary journalism noticeable from the accounts of the American Civil War to those of the Spanish Civil War?
How do the works of Spanish reporters differ from those of their foreign counterparts? How are they be related? How did they influence one another, if at all?
How were foreign reporters’ dispatches received in Spain? Were they considered as external points of view and therefore unavoidably biased?
How is patriotism expressed in literary journalism in the context of a civil war? Does it always have to be militant?
Are journalists working on both sides actually objective in civil wars?
Can literary war journalism be considered a means of reuniting the two halves of a single warring nation?
How did these civil wars influence the way journalism evolved in the decades that followed?
The diversity of viewpoints on these two civil wars is presented as a model for contributions on other civil wars, past and present (e.g., Syria, Afghanistan, etc.). This plurality will allow us understand how literary journalism evolved through civil wars and became a way of bringing together nations that were once – or still are – torn apart. English will be the conference’s principal language, but papers can also be presented in Spanish.

Please send abstracts of 300 words and a brief CV to John S. Bak (, Antonio Cuartero ( and Vincent Thiery ( by 15 January 2017.