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Why We Fought: America's Wars in Film and History

by Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor

Availablecloth$80.00x 978-0-8131-2493-3
Availablepaperback$45.00x 978-0-8131-9191-1
Film and History
624 pages  Pubdate: 07/25/2008  6.125 x 9.25 x 1.6875  143

This book makes a powerful case that film can be as valuable a tool as primary documents for improving our understanding of the causes and consequences of war. Why We Fought: America’s Wars in Film and History is a comprehensive look at war films, from depictions of the American Revolution to portrayals of September 11 and its aftermath. The volume contrasts recognized history and historical fiction with the versions appearing on the big screen. The text considers a selection of the pivotal war films of all time, including All Quiet on the Western Front (1930), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986), and Saving Private Ryan (1998). Why We Fought reveals how film depictions of the country’s wars have shaped our values, politics, and culture, and it offers a unique understanding of American history.

Peter C. Rollins is Regents Professor Emeritus of English and American Film Studies at Oklahoma State University and is former editor of the journal Film & History. He is the coeditor of numerous books, including Hollywood’s Indian: The Portrayal of the Native American in Film. John E. O’Connor is professor emeritus of the Federated Department of History at New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University. He is also a founding editor of Film & History and the coeditor of several books.

“Why We Fought is not only a thoughtful reading of war films and history, but it is a significant contribution to scholarship. Understanding why we fight is more relevant today than ever before since Americans continue to explore their national identity, their country, and themselves.”—Michael K. Schoenecke, coeditor of All-Stars and Movie Stars: Sports in Film and History

"Although it is sometimes waged for selfish and extraneous ends, warfare is fundamental to developing human cultures. Regardless of its end, warfare continues to be depicted in documentaries and analyzed more in the imagination than on the battlefield. Battles that are re-created on the stage and silver screen depict the motivations, actual experiences, and consequences of combat. . . . This penetrating collection of essays by two of the best editors of history and film looks deeply into movies' interpretations of why we have fought and examines the ways in which war has been presented to us."--Ray B. Browne, Professor of Popular Culture, Emeritus, Bowling Green State University

"Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor have compiled a historically sound, inclusive, and diverse, interdisciplinary portrait of American wars in film. Each essay has its own bibliography, and the ending filmography is nothing short of superb. Technically and conceptually, this book is, perhaps, the most powerful of its kind produced to date, and it will doubtlessly be lauded as a breakthrough in the studies of war films."--Robert C. Doyle, author of Voices from Captivity: Interpreting the American POW Narrative

“This wide-ranging and sophisticated anthology incorporates a broad spectrum of analytical perspectives that establish major film treatments of America’s wars in cinematic and historical contexts, while demonstrating the synergistic relationships between the two approaches.”—Dennis Showalter, Patton and Rommel: Men of War in the Twentieth Century

“A useful addition to an academic, arts, or film library, this book covers films based on every war fought by the United States.” --Xpress Reviews

"Rollins and O’Connor’s finished product is a great resource. It is chronologically organized, and uses a variety of mediums and types of analysis. This collection provides an appropriately complete illustration of how war has been depicted and its role in understanding American history." --David R. Buck,

"Rollins and O’Connor have assembled a rich, varied collection of essays that explore all US wars in order, from the American Revolution to Iraq. Essential." --R. D. Sears, Choice

"Not only will you learn a lot about the movies, but you’ll also re-examine the context of the film’s creation. . . . A fascinating book." --Book Bit for WTBF- AM/FM

"These outstanding essays provide proof of the war film genre’s lasting legacy in American history and cinema." --History News Network,

“The book takes on depictions of every conflict from the American Revolution to September 11 and its aftermath, showing how films have shaped America’s understanding of its history.” --Colloquy

“An excellent compilation of essays on war films.” --VVA Veteran

"Rollins and O’Connor have provided a starting point with which to analyze the influence of wars and conflicts in movies, documentaries, and television shows." --On Point

"The methodology is to examine a particular film, a pair of films or series to explore the reasons given for having to fight it, the portrayal of combat, and the other political and social implications." --NYMAS

Named as a Choice Outstanding Academic Titles.

Winner of the 2008 Ray and Pat Browne Award.