Art and Trauma
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Art and Trauma

Art stands as one of society’s most determined efforts to understand itself. Whether we examine Francisco Goya’s masterpiece “The Disasters of War” from the early 19th century or Otto Dix’s “Der Krieg” (The War), — which he created on the 10th anniversary of World War I to remind the public of the violence and tragedy of war — art has been employed as a means to protest war. Art has also provided the means to commemorate war, to reshape its memory for national purposes, to bear witness to its destruction, and to imbue war trauma with new meaning. As the world commemorates the centennial of the Great War, we will discuss the ways in which art has played a crucial role in documenting the wars of the 20th century and has also provided the means for veterans of our 21st century wars to discover pathways to healing.

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Irene Guenther teaches modern European and American history for the Honors College. She received her Ph.D. in history (with a specialization in modern European/modern German history and American cultural history) from the University of Texas in 2001. She is the recipient of a University of Houston Research Grant, as well as a German government research grant, the Way-Klingler Scholar Award at Marquette University, and several teaching excellence awards.

Guenther has written extensively on the fashion industry in pre-World War II Berlin and the fate of German Jewish designers; the politics of fashion and uniforms in Nazi Germany and fascist Italy; European cultural refugees during WWII; and modern German art and its demise during the Nazi cultural purges. Guenther is also the co-curator of the successful centennial World War I exhibition, Postcards from the Trenches: Germans and Americans Visualize the Great War, which focuses on the art soldiers made in the trenches. The exhibition premiered in Washington, D.C., and traveled to The Printing Museum in Houston and Germany.