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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Going to Ground(s): The War Correspondent’s Memoir


This essay considers two memoirs by leading American war correspondents: Stephen Crane’s memoir of the Spanish-American War, “War Memories” (1899), and Dexter Filkins’s account of the US occupation of Iraq, The Forever War (2003). But it also considers the archive of news dispatches behind both books: the news reports that come to “ground” and authorize the memoir in the first place. By “going to ground,” in addition, this essay examines both the interpretive and discursive networks that often migrate from news writing to retrospective chronicle, and the particular situation of returning to the home front that reframes those accounts. Thanks to the work of William Appleman Williams, Amy Kaplan, Elizabeth Samet, Robert Westbrook, and others, we’ve often tried to think about the reciprocity of the imperial and domestic fronts—to recognize, for instance, that reports of war often work in concert with home front ideas about national sovereignty, “foreign influence,” or citizens’ political obligation and socialization. This essay explores what it is about domestic fronts that contains and often silences the news the correspondent brings home. Moreover, it considers how war correspondents’ memoirs reconfigure these home fronts in transnational and intranational terms.

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