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Comparison of narratives: American veterans of the Vietnam war and operation Iraqi freedom

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Emmer, Janal J.
Helmers, Marguerite
Feb 09, 2009
Vietnam War, Personal narratives, American literature and the war, biography as literary form, politics and literature, Iraq war, Narration (Rhetoric)
At the heart of every person is a story, an account of a significant life event that is often hidden within the memory. When memories are written down, the past becomes a story, a style, a piece of literature. In this form, the personal narrative has two functions: a memory is information storage, communicating events across time and space; and second, memory recorded in a visual format allows people to examine it in a different way (Goff 59). The personal narrative itself floats somewhere between nonfiction and fiction, and finds a home amid the short story, novel, and autobiography. However, it resists these genres because memoirs generally lack a plot, climax, and ending. According to Don Ringnalda, in Fighting and Writing the Vietnam War, it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between a memoir and a first-person novel because the lines separating fact, fiction, memory, and autobiography become blurred (Ringnalda 74). The personal narrative also negotiates with the historical document. Memoirs have sometimes been considered neighbors of history, and historians and memoirists have also been grouped together from a literary perspective. The testimony provided in personal narratives enters the historical domain when it provides information about specific historical events, but poses problems for historians because the elements cannot meet the test of historical accuracy (Hynes 15; Goff 186). According to Samuel Hynes in The Soldiers? Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War, ?Personal narratives are not history; they speak each with its own voice, as history does not, and they find their own shape, which are not the shapes of history. They are neither better nor worse, neither more nor less valuable than history; they are simply different? (Hynes 16). Personal narratives are restricted to a single perspective, biased, and full of emotion (Hynes 15). At the same time, personal narratives are vital to our understanding of the cultures and experiences of the past. They capture the expressions and nuances of language over time. Furthermore, each person?s shared memories and language reflect aspects of media, society, and time, both during the event itself and when recalled days, months, or years later. This thesis involves the collection of personal narratives from American veterans of two wars: Vietnam and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Through these narratives, it will be evident that media, society, and time are woven into the fabric of memories, and their resulting narratives. In addition, the narratives provide insight into how time affects the state of memory. These wars were chosen because the United States has received criticism over its involvement in both conflicts, and anti-war sentiment is reflected in society, media, and literature.
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of master of Arts - English.
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