warTIME: Combat, Chronotope, and the Global War on Terrorism
McGehee, William Paul
The concise packaging of war for either basic educational purposes or public memory produces a simplified collective perception — a “war myth,” to borrow Samuel Hynes’ term — through which a population can ascribe neat and concise interpretations of the past. The problem with myths, however, is that though they create specific enduring expectations, every so often those expectations become challenged by new emergent realities. Specifically, the Global War on Terror (GWOT), is a novel experience that frustrates traditional processing methods for a public that relies on such myths as the World Wars to formulate personal and national identities. This paper explores the collapse of war mythology in the GWOT by utilizing Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope to analyze war myths in general and illuminate the dissonance between the GWOT reality and the process of mythologizing war. By examining Elliot Ackerman’s Memoir, Places and Names: on War, Revolution and Returning, through the combined work of Bakhtin, Hynes, and Mary Dudziak and supplemented by my own military experience, I argue that the GWOT is a frustrated chronotope that can neither align with the normal generic distinctions nor fulfill the necessary social functions of the war myth.