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John Holbo - Editor
Scott Eric Kaufman - Editor
Aaron Bady
Adam Roberts
Amardeep Singh
Andrew Seal
Bill Benzon
Daniel Green
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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

Event Archive

cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

Event Archive

cover of the book Graphs, Maps, Trees

Event Archive

cover of the book How Novels Think

Event Archive

cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

Event Archive

cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

Event Archive

cover of the book The Novel of Purpose

Event Archive

The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

PTSD in Ithaca & Achilles in Afghanistan

Posted by Bill Benzon on 11/08/09 at 09:41 AM

Two weeks ago when I was hanging out in Bérubé’s joint Ric Rader, as USC classicist, mentioned Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character in passing. It uses the Iliad as a lens through which to examine the experience of soldiers in Vietnam. Now Caroline Alexander has an op-ed in The New York Times that makes the similar connection:

And most significantly, epic tradition hints at the dilemmas of military commemoration. In “The Iliad,” Achilles must choose between kleos or nostos — glory or a safe return home. By dying at Troy, Achilles was assured of undying fame as the greatest of all heroes. His choice reflects an uneasy awareness that it is far easier to honor the dead soldier than the soldier who returns. Time-tested and time-honored, the commemoration rites we observe each Memorial Day — the parades and speeches and graveside prayers and offerings — represent a satisfying formula of remembrance by the living for the dead that was already referred to as “ancient custom” by Thucydides in the fifth century B.C.

The commemoration of the veteran — the survivor who did not fall on the field of war — is less starkly defined. The returned soldier, it is hoped, will grow old and die among us, like Nestor, in whose time “two generations of mortal men had perished.” In our own times, the generation born in the optimistic aftermath of World War II has already encountered veterans of both world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf war and our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — and still has several decades of martial possibilities in reserve. As the earlier of those wars recede into the past, their old soldiers fade away; and thus, commemorative rites for the veteran — by definition, the survivor — also tend to end, perversely, at graves.


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