In this provocative study, Hazel Hutchison takes a fresh look at the roles of American writers in helping to shape national opinion and policy during the First World War. From the war’s opening salvos in Europe, American writers recognized the impact the war would have on their society and sought out new strategies to express their horror, support, or resignation. By focusing on the writings of Henry James, Edith Wharton, Grace Fallow Norton, Mary Borden, Ellen La Motte, E. E. Cummings, and John Dos Passos, Hutchison examines what it means to be a writer in wartime, particularly in the midst of a conflict characterized by censorship and propaganda. Drawing on original letters and manuscripts, some never before seen by researchers, this book explores how the essays, poetry, and novels of these seven literary figures influenced America’s public view of events, from August 1914 through the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, and ultimately set the literary agenda for later, more celebrated texts about the war.
“Hutchison has written an outstanding overview of the literature that began within months of the start of WW I and flooded world reading markets.”—Choice
“Hutchison’s book eloquently details shifting notions of civilization, art, and the impact of the written word.”—Sarah Wood Anderson, Journal of American History
"This book explores the struggle of American writers to make sense of a war that grew beyond their wildest expectations. No American exceptionalism here; just perplexity, sadness and resignation at the degeneration of warfare into mass slaughter."—Jay Winter, Yale University
“The War That Used Up Words is a beautifully written reexamination of American writers in the midst of the Great War that persuasively challenges longstanding critical assumptions and forces us to rethink the literary history of the late 1910s. There isn’t a single inelegant sentence.” —Steven Trout, University of Southern Alabama
“Hutchison’s scrutiny of the testimonies and literary engagements of American authors during the First World War: men and women, the elderly and the teenage, the familiar and the neglected is coupled with a surefooted description of changing US politics and public opinion as the war developed. She has researched this study meticulously.”—Tim Kendall, University of Exeter