This article explores literary depictions of veterans and how these depictions can place a millstone of expectations and beliefs around the necks of current and former military service members attempting to enter the public sphere either as academic writers or citizens.
Military veterans as a group have received much deference in the United States during the post 9/11 era. For many Americans, recognized veteran status confers authority on a person to speak to issues related to military service, foreign policy, and an array of tangential domestic policy issues. This authority to speak, however, comes with a host of expectations and constraints upon what veteran speech will contain. In a related development, veterans’ achieved status has begun to be discussed and treated like an attributed racial status, and a host of essentialist assumptions dog veterans in their interactions with others. Given the demographic and experiential diversity of post 9/11 veterans, the attribution of a narrowly construed veteran status can place a millstone of expectations and beliefs around the necks of current and former military service members attempting to enter the public sphere either as academic writers or citizens. I call this socially constructed and historically ungrounded version of veteran identity the veteran trope in order to distinguish it from the multitudinous experiences and identities of former military service members. Even without conscious acknowledgment, the trope of the veteran constitutes a constraining influence on military veterans, especially when they are hailed or attempt to speak as veterans. Gaining awareness of the existence and influence of the veteran trope is an essential precursor to honest speech by veterans, and those whose work is to facilitate or analyze veteran writing would do well to consider how the specific authority and areas of insight attributed to veterans affect the genesis and possible scope of their productions.
Corley, L. (2017). Epistemological Interference and the Trope of the Veteran. Journal of Veterans Studies, 2(1), 69–78. DOI: http://doi.org/10.21061/jvs.v2i1.29