Critical Writing Index

In War Times: Fictionalizing Iraq

by Roger Luckhurst

Contemporary Literature, Winter 2012, v. 53, no. 4, pp. 713-737

In this essay, Roger Luckhurst explores how we might gauge the relation of an unfolding contemporary war to cultural representations. Ethical criticism on the aesthetic representation of war is often torn between the demand for documentation and witness, and the call to foreground a certain impossibility of the representations of trauma. Luckhurst considers the large and diffuse body of work that engages with the Iraq War, including literature, photography, video art, and poetry. The cinema is often criticized for its inability to attract audiences and gain cultural traction in the way that film did when confronted with Vietnam. Luckhurst proposes that perhaps the criticism of the contemporary cultural production surrounding Iraq means that we are looking for cultural reflections on the war in the wrong places. He suggests that the resistance to narrative or representation of this contemporary war means that cultural narratives about it are often displaced or filtered through the iconography of prior war, that this refraction may be the only way of grasping war in its contemporaneity.

ITEM 2012.076 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

The Incommensurable BannerThomas Hirschhorn

War CutGerhard Richter

Serious GamesHarun Farocki