Launched in the centenary year of the start of the First World War, this module offers you the opportunity to encounter the shock of the war - its historical, cultural and psychological enormity and incomprehensibility - as it was expressed by writers who experienced it and lived through its aftermath, as well as to explore and critically analyse the continuing significance of the War and its cultural mythology within literary history from 1914 to the present day. You will be exposed to a range of moments in the articulation and representation of the War, from the voices preserved in the poetry of 1914-18, across the curious imaginative silence of the early post-war years to the flood of memoirs and autobiographical prose fiction that appeared in the mid to late 1920s, to the historical representations that began to appear from the 1960s, to our contemporary moment of remembrance and memorialisation as marked by 2014.
Framed by a reading of Timothy Findley’s historical novel The Wars (1977), the module will encourage you to reflect upon the ways in which you approach, represent and ‘remember’ the War in the act of historical research and literary criticism. Other texts taught are likely to include a selection from the following novels, memoirs, plays and poetry collections, alongside letters, diaries and other ephemera: poetry from the trenches and the home front [from The First World War Poetry Digital Archive at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/ and Tim Kendall, Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology (OUP 2013), and Catherine Reilly, Scars Upon My Heart: Women's Poetry and Verse of the First World War (Virago, 2006)], Rebecca West, Return of the Soldier (1918), Ford Madox Ford, No More Parades (1925), R.C. Sheriff, Journey’s End (1928), Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (1929), Frederic Manning, The Middle Parts of Fortune (1929), Robert Graves, Goodbye to All That (1929), Richard Aldington, Death of a Hero (1929), Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (1929; 1929 Wheen translation), Helen Zenna Smith, Not So Quiet ... (1930), Siegfried Sassoon, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (1930), Theatre Workshop, Oh, What a Lovely War! (1963), Susan Hill, Strange Meeting (1971), and Pat Barker, Regeneration (1991). You will also have the opportunity in the workshop sessions to see original film footage from World War One, and to work with some of the World War One archive holdings in the University of Birmingham’s Research and Cultural collections.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay