Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Veteran narratives and the collective memory of the Vietnam War
by Wood, John A., Ph.D., Temple University, 2011, 225; 3477799
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is a comprehensive study of the content, author demographics, publishing history, and media representation of the most prominent Vietnam veteran memoirs published between 1967 and 2005. These personal narratives are important because they have affected the collective memory of the Vietnam War for decades. The primary focus of this study is an analysis of how veterans' memoirs depict seven important topics: the demographics of American soldiers, combat, the Vietnamese people, race relations among U.S. troops, male-female relationships, veterans' postwar lives, and war-related political issues. The central theme that runs through these analyses is that these seven topics are depicted in ways that show veteran narratives represent constructed memories of the past, not infallible records of historical events. One reoccurring indication of this is that while memoirists' portrayals are sometimes supported by other sources and reflect historical reality, other times they clash with facts and misrepresent what actually happened.

Another concern of this dissertation is the relationship of veteran memoirs to broader trends in public remembrance of the Vietnam War, and how and why some books, but not others, were able to achieve recognition and influence. These issues are explored by charting the publishing history of veteran narratives over a thirty-eight year period, and by analyzing media coverage of these books. This research indicates that mainstream editors and reviewers selected memoirs that portrayed the war in a negative manner, but rejected those that espoused either unambiguous anti- or pro-war views. By giving some types of narratives preference over others, the media and the publishing industry helped shape the public's collective understanding of the war.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Kusmer, Kenneth L.
Commitee: Hilty, James, Katz, Stanley N., Urwin, Gregory J.W.
School: Temple University
Department: History
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 73/01, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: American history, Military history
Keywords: Collective memory, Veterans, Vietnam War
Publication Number: 3477799
ISBN: 9781124947051
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