Letters from Almost Nowhere: The Effect of the Intended and the Unintended Reader upon the Epistolary Dialogue of American Soldiers during World War I
Ramsey, Alexis E.
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The letters exchanged between home and the front provide invaluable opportunities to study conceptions of privacy and individuality in relation to the very communal nature of war. The correspondence of Clarence Mueller and Lloyd Staley, two members of the American Expeditionary Force, allow the cultural historian an unparalleled view into how notions of "intended" versus "unintended" readers affected the epistolary dialogue of doughboys in the months surrounding November 11, 1918. This thesis will first establish the general experiences of all World War I soldiers, followed by a discussion of the unique situation of the American doughboys. From this base, the thesis will examine how the presence of the censor affected the conversational quality of the soldiers' correspondences. Then, I will discuss postcards as a visual conversation between the "speakers." Finally, the thesis will return to the letters of Staley and Mueller and discuss how the absence of both actual war and the censor altered the content and tone of their respective dialogues. For, in an age of total war, where private lives are caught in public events to an unprecedented effect, letters speak one person's narrative against the clamor of one army's story.