Friday, November 06, 2015

Ending or Beginning: World War I

           The year was 1914; the place was Sarajevo, Bosnia.  The event that occurred in late June—the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria—led to the outbreak of a war that involved many nations of the world.  Germany, Austria-Hungary, and the Central Powers making up the Ottoman Empire were in conflict with the Allied Powers that included Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy and Japan.  The Allies were joined by the United States in 1917.

            Why did the United States enter this conflict that involved moving abroad to fight on foreign soil? Based upon events that occurred in 1915 and 1916 which involved violations of international law and warnings that were made to German authorities, U.S. President Wilson went to Congress and asked for permission to go to war. Wilson stated in his address to Congress, “The world must be made safe for democracy.”  War was officially declared by Congress on April 6, 1917.  Because the nation was not prepared for participating in combat, American soldiers were not deployed to France until 1918.  The two million American soldiers who were sent to France played a vital role in the final six months of the war.  Because their numbers were significant and they were not worn out from years of intense combat, they made a tremendous difference when fighting an exhausted and battle-worn enemy force.

            During the four years of what is known as the Great War, battlefield advances included the use of trench warfare and the introduction of modern weaponry including machine guns, tanks, and chemical weapons. As a result, the casualties were many.

            By the end of the war, approximately eighty-five million soldiers had been killed while twenty-one million more were wounded.  During the six months that American soldiers fought, fifty-three thousand died on the battlefield.  Around half of that number of troops died in the concluding battle of the war, the Meuse-Argonne.  Fighting ended on November 11, 1918, the day which became Armistice Day and is now Veterans’ Day.

The so-called war to end all wars ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. This event began another chapter in world history because the wounds that brought on war were not healed, and as a result, another world conflict would begin within the next twenty years.

            To learn more about the Great War, the battles, the locations, and the involvement of the United States and other nations, take a look at the books here on the display as well as others in the Al Harris Library.  All are available for you to check out and enjoy.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Mything in Action

Every fictional book, regardless of subject matter, invites the reader to step into an alternate reality.  Sometimes, however, that otherworld is so powerfully depicted, so wondrously realized, that writers and readers have been pleasurably lost in fantasy for a life-time.  Some insist on bringing that alternate reality into the real world by incorporating it into society’s universal mythology.

That is the purpose of the genre of modern literature known as mythopoeia, a 20th Century word for an old tradition, popularized by J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and others, continues to embrace readers. 

The Mythopoeic Society, the preeminent organization promoting the genre, describes mythopoeia “as literature that creates a new and transformative mythology, or incorporates and transforms existing mythological material. …This type of work, at its best, should also inspire the reader to examine the importance of mythology in his or her own spiritual, moral, and creative development.”

Some of the best known practitioners of the mythopoeia are:

•    William Blake, who used The Bible, Dante, and mysticism in painting and poetry presenting an invented mythology that was critical of technology and materialism.
•    H.P. Lovecraft, who used New England folk tales about black magic and monsters and created stories about sleeping monsters who will awaken, after centuries, to mankind’s doom.
•    J.R.R. Tolkien, who used Northern European cultures and a love for inventing languages to create the myth cycle of Middle-earth known as The Silmarillion that culminated in  The Lord of the Rings.
•    C.S. Lewis, who used Christianity and a blend of European fantasy creatures in his Space Trilogy and the Narnia series.
•    Ursula K. Le Guin, who uses a background of modern languages, world literature, and popular  fantasy to create stories showing the intricacies of alternative beings and the consequences of wizardry.
•    Neil Gaiman, who uses a background in classic and popular literature to create adult and juvenile literature that includes mythic beings living in the contemporary world.
•    Terry Pratchett, who used fantasy literature, world mythology, and British humor to create a wide-reaching and intricately plotted parody of the fantasy genre in more than 40 novels.

See the book display showcasing works of mythopoeic literature on the first floor of the Al Harris Library.  All books displayed are available for check out.
Accept the call to explore what J.R.R. Tolkien termed the “perilous realms” of fantasy.  But, reader, beware, you may find yourself mything in action.