Due to its unprecedented violence and unexpected duration, the First World War generated many complex and tragic experiences, which over time have been interpreted and reinterpreted. The aim of the Memex WW1 project is to bridge these two topics – experiences and memories of the war – in order to enhance Belgium’s WWI heritage. This heritage is archival and literary, as well as material and monumental. Four PhD dissertations will cover four axes: war time experience, monumental heritage, literature and memory.
Four PhD dissertations
Although WWI was a war of nations, and Belgian soldiers fought in the name of their violated and occupied homeland, it is a fact that the willingness to fight and the morale of the troops underwent multiple variations, implying contradictory feelings (fraternity and honour, but also fear, shame, humiliation, bitterness, …). Many of these feelings were hard to express, not only during the war but also afterwards.
The dissertations will therefore deal with the feelings of honour and shame among the soldiers, the monumental heritage of WWI in two Belgian cities (Antwerp and Liège), representations of war experiences in the French and Flemish literatures and the issues of war memory in contemporary Belgian society.
An interdisciplinary project
Each dissertation, supervised by two directors from different research fields, involves diverse methodologies drawn from history, political science, philology and psychology. These methodologies imply historical criticism and contextualization, discourse analysis and political implications, literary criticism and narrative modes, inquiries and quantitative and qualitative analysis of data.
The methodological and theoretical seminars of the MEMEX WWI project are particularly useful to enhance interdisciplinary dialogues: the first are focused on reading, scientific discussion, presentation of papers and debates; the second are conceived as one day workshops with external contributors, aiming at debating on the project topics.
The MEMEX WWI project is concerned by the societal relevancy of its interdisciplinary research in history, political science, literature and psychology. Indeed, a better knowledge of the past and of the mechanisms of its (re)construction dismantles certain prejudices which alter identity perceptions and social interactions.
Moreover, the valorization of monumental and literary heritages (inventories, digitalization and scientific analysis) will have a positive impact on tourism (through the valorization of historical places) and school teaching (by developing handbooks and other teaching material).