The Philippine-American War, 1898-1902

Tortured Benevolence:

The Philippine-American War, 1898 – 1902



The Philippine-American War of 1898 to 1902, also known as the Philippine Insurgency, encompassed instances of extreme patriotic fervor and intense brutality, founded on misunderstanding and miscommunication between the United States and the native revolutionary forces of the Philippines. In many ways this relationship followed the expected phases of a classical colonial conflict. Nevertheless, critical aspects of Insurgency historiography remain in dispute today because those same strong emotions and misunderstandings survive in current times. Consequently these differences reveal themselves in ideological variations among American historians, as well as in strong nationalist perspectives between Americans and Filipinos. The purpose of this study is to investigate those continuing differences. Read more

Andre Bazin on the Films of Charlie Chaplin

Andre Bazin Assesses Chaplin


Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush (1925) is often cited among his most popular and critically praised films. How might the French film theorist Andre Bazin have assessed this film, especially as regards its treatment of realist and neorealist technique? Writing chiefly in the 1950’s, Bazin developed an implied system for evaluating cinema. His new standard was objective reality, and consequently it stressed the concept of the “invisible” director, one who would not interfere with the spectator’s interpretation of that reality. This meant that the inanimate camera was to remain the only instrumentality between “the originating object and its reproduction” (I, 13). It followed that the director should make any intervention as non-intrusive as possible, so as not to sully the “virginal purity” of the object (I, 14). “All the arts are derived from the presence of man, only photography [and by implication, the cinema] derives an advantage from his absence” (I, 13). The requirement to avoid mediation of the image led to a preference for fewer scenes, filmed with long takes and deep focus, in contrast with the “classic” style that tended to fragment scenes into a series of shots. The Gold Rush stands at the point where, according to Bazin, film directors began to choose to either “put their faith in the image,” or to “put their faith in reality” (I, 24). Chaplin leaves a foot in both camps. Read more

Alfred Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” (1941) and “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943)

Freud at the Movies: Psychoanalyzing Early Responses to

Alfred Hitchcock’s

Suspicion (1941) and Shadow of a Doubt (1943)



Alfred Hitchcock, a movie director alleged by many to have been driven by psychological demons and suppressed desires, made dozens of films over his long career. Although he began directing in England, Hitchcock moved to Hollywood in 1939 when David O. Selznick signed him to a seven-year contract. There he made several films which critics claim reveal his personal obsession with psychoanalytic interpretations. Freudian psychoanalysis was a widely-discussed social topic during this period, and film critics – then as now – frequently interpret film using psychoanalytical language. Although the general public remains largely indifferent to the fine points of Freudian and Jungian analysis, critics are not. Consequently, an examination of the critical response to two of Hitchcock’s most successful films reveals how his depictions of hidden emotions and phobias have been mined for psychological implications. Read more

Significance of Elem Klimov’s “Come and See” (1985)

Come and See How Russian Cinema Changed

For nearly seventy years after the Revolution, the apparatus of the Soviet state rigidly controlled the content and aesthetics of Russian film output. Although the doctrine of “Socialist Realism” called for the “concrete representation of reality”, filmmakers understood that their work had to depict critical components of the inevitable victory of communism.[i] Overt controls were most stringent regarding films that depicted the response of Russian society to “the Great Patriotic War” and the struggle against Nazi invaders. To receive official approval, directors were required to incorporate a number of heroic tropes and state myths. Consequently, both original and adapted films faced multiple constraints. Elem Klimov’s 1985 film Come and See rejected these artificial limitations, adapting an actual story of wartime atrocity into a brutally realistic portrayal of Russian experience. The film subsequently became the object of significant scholarly attention. Read more

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and American Culture

Invisible Heroes: The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and American Culture


“Those who have entered it honorably, and no men ever entered earth more honorably than those who died in Spain, already have achieved immortality.”    ~ Ernest Hemingway, On the American Dead in Spain[1]


There is a hole in American culture. We are a people who reverently mythologize the lone band of idealistic heroes, defending justice against powerful odds. Any high-school student knows the Minutemen, the defenders of the Alamo, and the 7th Infantry at Pork Chop Hill. But we intentionally exclude a heroic group of our countrymen from our cultural memory.

In 1936, a small contingent of 2600 idealistic Americans traveled to Spain to join in the fight against Franco’s Falange and Hitler’s Nazis. These ‘premature antifascists’ struggled against the same brutal ideology that millions of their countrymen would oppose just a few years later. Nevertheless, the members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade would be constrained from fighting in World War Two, and during the McCarthy years they would face public ridicule and government persecution. Their heroic story would only rarely be told, and when it was – as in Earnest Hemmingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls – the Brigade itself would denounce the depiction. The reasons for this disregard are rooted in the Brigade’s own intransigent attitudes and in America’s inability to recognize idealism in a Marxist context. Read more

Regimes of Chivalric Military Experience

The Regimes of Chivalric Military Experience:

Training – Tournament – Battle


As a professional soldier, the medieval knight participated in several discrete regimes of orchestrated violence. Military training, the tournament, and the military campaign were each imbued with clearly escalating levels of threat, and each presented closely-related but markedly different levels of control over processes and outcomes. The objective of this essay is to examine these three aspects of knightly military experience, identifying those factors which make each distinct. The brief nature of this composition permits us to merely contrast differences and behaviors in general terms. A more complete comparison demands expanded research. We will begin with broad characterizations of each of the three regimes, and then observe how they differ across a number of military, financial, and social qualities. Read more

Absent Players Choose the Victors: Sekigahara (1600) and Breitenfeld (1631)

Absent Players Choose the Victors

             Within the space of thirty years, two able commanders fought battles that determined the fate of their respective countries. Tokugawa Ieyasu defeated his rival at Sekigahara in 1600 and thereafter created a Japanese shogunate that would last for over 250 years. Gustavus Adolphus defeated the forces of the Holy Roman Empire at Breitenfeld in 1631 and thereby assured that Protestantism would survive on mainland Europe. Both commanders used mixed forces, mobility, and new military technology in their battles. Nevertheless, it was the startling removal from the battlefield of key fighting units that transformed probable defeat into victory. Read more

Three Historians on War

Three Historians Investigate the Elephant:

Paul Kennedy, William McNeill, Jeremy Black


Three acclaimed historians – Paul Kennedy, William McNeill, and Jeremy Black –

have attempted to identify the primary engines of war in human society. Although they frequently examine the same periods, regions, and cultures, they disagree about the principal sources of these conflicts. They disagree further when they identify the primary contributor to success in warfare. Each man provides numerous examples to support his thesis. In some cases, these very examples contradict the author’s proposed view. All three historians appear to be searching for a model that will allow us to predict success as a world power. They have each identified a part of the elephant. After examining at their arguments, the careful reader will conclude that war is a more complex animal than any of these theses suggest. Read more

War and American Society in the 21st Century

In Pursuit of Folly: War and American Society in the 21st Century


Human violence has myriad forms – domestic (wife beating), accidental (car wrecks), voluntary (soccer), spectator (professional sports) – the list is extensive. War is one highly specialized kind of human violence. Individuals do not make war, but socio-political entities like tribes and states do.  What is the relationship then, between war and society, and what implications does this relationship have for citizens of the United States in the 21st century? Three books published during the past five years present perspectives on these questions. Chalmers Johnson (The Sorrows of Empire), Andrew J. Bacevich (The New American Militarism) and Jeremy Scahill (Blackwater), as well as a recent documentary film (Why We Fight) attempt to assess the meaning of war within the context of contemporary America. Their assessment is ultimately unsatisfying. We are forced to search for a more comprehensive point of view, and to propose rules to govern America’s use of war as a national policy. Read more

A Historiography of Operation Barbarossa

Caught in the Dictator’s Vise:

The Historiography of Operation Barbarossa’s Victims, 1941 – 1945


Operation Barbarossa launched Nazi Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. It ended in the complete destruction of Hitler’s empire. During the first forty years after the close of World War II, histories of this campaign relied almost totally on the recollections and records of unsuccessful Wehrmacht generals, often resulting in highly biased and self-serving accounts of operations in the occupied territories. For example, referring to Stalingrad, historian Alan Clark tells us that: “The whole question of…the fate of the 6th Army is so clouded with guilt in the German mind [that it is impossible] to find any witness who has told the whole truth.”[i] Read more