Jay Winter

Yale University

Jay Winter is the Charles J. Stille Professor of History emeritus at Yale University.

He is the author of Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (1995), War beyond words: Languages of remembrance from the Great War to the present (2017), and editor of The Cambridge History of the First World War (2014).

He holds honorary doctorates from the University of Graz, the Katholik University of Leuven, and the University of Paris-8, and in 2017 he received the Victor Adler prize of the Austrian state for lifetime service to history.

The Geometry of memory

Commemorations of the Great War 1914-2018

Commemorations of the Great War over the past century have downscaled, from the imperial and national level to the regional, local, familial and personal level.

Today there are grandiose ceremonies, and from the beginning of the war there were small-scale memorials.

But there has been a shift from collective language, ceremonies, and gestures which honored armies, empires and nations to a more intimate rhetoric, dealing with soldiers rather than armies, towns and families rather than nations.

In addition, the waning of mass participation in church life since the 1960s in the West has muffled the rhetoric of redemption and healing of the first decades of commemoration.

In contrast to Eastern Europe, in the West remembrance of the Great War 100 years on treats it primarily as a black hole in history, a catastrophe which set the stage for worse to come.

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