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A Male-Conscious Critique of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

Ulbrich, David J.  Journal of Men's Studies; Thousand Oaks Vol. 3, Iss. 3,  (Feb 28, 1995): 229. DOI:10.1177/106082659500300303
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A Male-Conscious Critique of Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front

Author's Note: This essay was originally presented in the Men/Men's Studies Section of the 1994 American Popular Culture Association Conference in Chicago, Illinois. For their advice and encouragement, the author wishes to thank Eugene August, Glenda Riley, Stanley Saxton, Phyllis Zimmerman, Hartmut Heep, Lawrence Birken, Abel Alves, and Thomas Phelps. Correspondence should be addressed to David J. Ulbrich, 126 W. Dixon Avenue, Dayton, OH 45419.

In modern times, much has been written about a male's experience on the battlefield. While "old" military history stressed grand campaigns described in sweeping pen-strokes, "new" military history investigates the viewpoint of a grunt in the trenches (Paret, 1991, p. 11). Significant research has been conducted on morale, strategy, tactics, and technology in war (Note 1). However, with the possible exception of the Vietnam War, soldiers have not been sufficiently analyzed as males with gender exclusive perspectives (Note 2). A male conscious critique can be used to glimpse the lives of males in warfare.

Because of the rise in literacy in the last two or three centuries (Kennedy, 1987/1989, p. 187), even lowly enlisted men gained an education sophisticated enough to record their observations and critically analyze the world around them. Personal accounts of the common soldier's military experience abound. Memoirs, oral histories, diaries, and novels are important because they may yield insights into the timeless stresses and anxieties of males (August, 1985, p. xii). Of these, I will explore the war novel. This genre easily lends itself to a male conscious critique. Specifically, I will examine the intermingling factors of "male bonding, definition of masculinity, and adult male development" (Borchert, 1989, p. 1) as portrayed in Erich Maria Remarque's (1929/1989) classic All Quiet on the Western Front.

METHODOLOGY

According to Eugene...