Literary Politics in Turbulent Times: The Story of the Armed Services Editions

20 Sep 2019 09.30 AM - 11.00 AM Alumni, Current Students, Industry/Academic Partners, Prospective Students, Public
Organised by:
Richard Barlow

During World War II, 123 million copies of almost 1200 different book titles were distributed to American soldiers stationed around the world. Known as the Armed Services Editions, the volumes came in specially designed paperbacks that were cheap to produce and easy to transport. Their intent was to function not only as recreation, but also as inspiration, which was suggested by the motto behind the series: “Books Are Weapons in the War of Ideas.”

This presentation examines the background, execution, and ideological underpinnings of this fascinating publishing initiative. As such, it offers an overview of the selection of titles in the series, which included everything from high modernism to dime novels, as well as a consideration of the dynamic conception of literature that informed the project. Drawing on archival research, it moreover explores the feedback and response from the soldiers, while also considering the paratextual elements unique to these editions, which shaped the readers’ understanding of the material.


Fredrik Tydal received his PhD in American literature from Uppsala University, Sweden in 2010. After a few years of teaching at different universities in Sweden, he then spent two and a half years as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia, conducting research on the Armed Services Editions. In 2017, he took up a permanent position as Senior Lecturer in English at the Stockholm School of Economics.

Tydal’s recent publications include articles and chapters on D.H. Lawrence, Agnes Smedley, and Henry James. He is currently serving as President of the John Dos Passos Society.