Silences of the Great War: All the Things We Cannot Hear

Presented by ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences

The auditory history of the First World War has never been written.  There are studies of songs and composers, of cabaret and opera, but the sound of the world at war are mostly unknown.  And there is a good reason why this is so.  So much of the cacophony of war is beyond us. One consequence of this truth is that representations of war need to address not only sound but silence as a language of memory. This paper attempts to do so in a number of different contexts, drawing from J.L. Austin's work on performative speech acts to sketch out a theory of performative silences.  One such, with which the speaker has a direct experience, is the use of silence rather than sound in the creation of the Historial de la Grande Guerre, on the Somme in France.

Jay Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University.  He is a specialist on World War I and its impact on the 20th century.  Previously, Winter taught at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the University of Warwick, the University of Cambridge, and Columbia University.  

In 2001, he joined the faculty of Yale.  Winter is the author or co-author of 25 books, including Socialism and the Challenge of War; Ideas and Politics in Britain, 1912-18; Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History; The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century; Rene Cassin and the rights of man, and most recently, War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present.  

In addition he has edited or co-edited 30 books and contributed 130 book chapters to edited volumes.  Winter was also co-producer, co-writer, and chief historian for the PBS/BBC series The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century, which won an Emmy Award, a Peabody Award and a Producers Guild of America Award for best television documentary in 1997.  He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the University of Leuven, and the University of Paris.