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Five Ways to Look at a Corpse: The Dead in Normandy, 1944

September 25, 2013 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

Portrait image of Mary Louise Roberts seated at a glass table with her arms crossed and hand at neck wearing a blue shirt


2013 Focus on the Humanities Distinguished Lecture:

Mary Louise Roberts

Professor of History and Senior Fellow, Institute for Research in the Humanities, UW-Madison


We prefer to think of war as producing heroes, not corpses. Perhaps for this reason, military historians have rarely focused on the dead. In the Normandy invasion of 1944, the bodies of American G.I.s were often not visible. This is because, in an effort to maintain the morale of the troops, the U.S. military quickly removed corpses from the battlefield and kept them out of sight. At the same time, however, much can be learned about the war’s meaning for its combatants by exploring how corpses were perceived by U.S. and German soldiers, as well as military officials, French civilians, and the American public.


Mary Louise Roberts is a Professor of History and a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Research in the Humanities at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her most recent book, What Soldiers Do: Sex and the American GI in World War II France, appeared with the University of Chicago Press in 2013. Her work has recently appeared in the American Historical ReviewFrench Historical StudiesFrench PoliticsCulture & Society, and l’Histoire. She is working on a narrated collection of memoirs, D-Day through French Eyes: Memoirs of Normandy 1944, which will appear with the University of Chicago Press for the seventieth anniversary of the landings in June 2014.


September 25, 2013
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
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Conrad A. Elvehjem Building, Room L140
800 University Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin 53703 United States