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Readings, panel discussion mark World War I centennial observance at Fredonia
Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Readings, panel discussion mark World War I centennial observance at Fredonia

Brian Castner

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the “War to End all Wars,” Fredonia will host “World War I Centennial: Ending War, Talking Peace,” a two-day event envisioned to bring Iraq war veterans, campus and community members and scholars together to recognize World War I literature written by American veterans and discuss critical notions of war and peace.

A public book reading session will be held on Wednesday, Feb. 21, beginning at noon in the Garden area of Reed Library. An exhibit of World War I era literature that will include select items from Fredonia’s renowned Stefan Zweig collection will also be displayed.


    Christopher Capozzola


   Ian Fishback

Three distinguished speakers with unique insight into U.S. military history will participate in a panel discussion on Thursday, Feb. 22, also at noon in the Garden area.

Christopher Capozzola is the author of “Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen” and co-curator of “The Volunteers: Americans Join World War I,” an historical exhibition. Brian Castner is a U.S. veteran and author of “The Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows.” Ian Fishback, also a U.S. veteran, was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world for helping to reform U.S. detainee treatment standards during the Global War on Terror.

“World War I is relatively unknown by the current generation, and some may not even know that the U.S. was involved,” explained Department of English Associate Professor Iclal Vanwesenbeeck, who organized the campus’ centennial event. It’s essential, she believes, to join the global remembrance of World War I and discussions of armistice and peace making.

Department of History Professor David Kinkela considers Mr. Capozzola, whom he met while both were attending Harvard University, to be an excellent selection for the panel. “Not only is he a terrific scholar, but he’s an engaging speaker who connects the past to the present in very meaningful ways,” Dr. Kinkela noted. “While he is one of the nation’s leading historians on World War I, he brings his historical perspective to contemporary issues.”

Impressive is how Distinguished Teaching Professor Stephen Kershnar rates the credentials of Mr. Fishback, a West Point graduate who led paratroopers and Special Forces for the U.S. Army and completed four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Fishback also taught philosophy at West Point and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Castner's journalistic work focuses on the concept of the American forever wars. He also co-edited “The Road Ahead: Fiction from the Forever War,” a collection of 25 masterfully crafted stories by veterans that reflect wide ranges of human emotion – loss, anger, joy, love, fear and courage – and the evolving nature of what has become America’s “Forever War” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“We are hoping that Brian will elaborate on the forever war concept from the perspective of domestic and global politics," Dr. Vanwesenbeeck noted.

By drawing on letters, documents and literary texts, panelists will discuss U.S. history during World War I, the significance of peace treaties and American wars on foreign soil and the scarcity of peace treaties since World War II.

Fredonia was awarded a matching grant by Humanities New York, a partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities, to engage the community in public programming that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of the war. All events are free and open to the public.

Attendees of the book reading are welcome to present authors and essays, poems, excerpts of novels or other literary works of their own choice.

“I am hoping that we will have a peaceful, welcoming and inviting space where we can all engage in a dialogue about war and peace. We are inviting everyone to join us. No prior knowledge is necessary; just the wish to talk about war and peace,” Vanwesenbeeck said.

For more information, contact Vanwesenbeeck via email or at (716) 673-3125.

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