War is a topic of perennial importance to people from all sectors of all societies, and battle narratives play a major role in some of the greatest works of art, literature and film: think of Homer’s Iliad, the histories of Tacitus, Vegetius’ prescriptions for military combat, the Nibelungenlied, the Bayeux Tapestry, Paolo Uccello’s Battle of San Romano and Shakespeare’s history plays, to Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Picasso’s Guernica, Shostakovich’s Stalingrad Symphony and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. At first glance these depictions of battle are all strikingly different. The aim of our project is to bring them – and many others – into dialogue with each other.
Above all, we want to foreground and explore the interplay between them. Battle narratives have always evolved as part of a complex cultural discourse, which operates across different genres, formats and cultures. We ask: how do battle narratives from different media, communities and historical periods both shape and differentiate themselves from each other?
In pioneering a new comparative approach, we hope to gain insight not only into battle depictions in individual works but also into the development and architecture of ‘the battle narrative’ as an interactive network of ideas.