Emily James is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Center for Women at University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. She teaches twentieth-century literature and visual culture; and writes about modernism, composition, and creative process. Her work can be found in Twentieth-Century Literature, Journal of Modern Literature, Modernist Cultures, Literature and Medicine, and The Space Between.
Modernism and camouflage would seem to be unlikely allies. One advances and the other retreats. One rebels and resists; the other lurks undercover. But during World War I, a group of renegade camoufleurs forged an uneasy truce between modernism’s flash and camouflage’s muted secrets. Their sources were extraordinary and eclectic. Drawing inspiration from animal behavior, avant-garde design, and women’s fashion, the camoufleur—and, as I argue, the camoufleuse—worked to reimagine visibility and warfare in modern terms.