THE GREAT WAR (1914-1918) Britain had been the biggest nation and had the most valuable virtues. WWI was a shock since millions of well-educated people died (the lost generation). All started with the assassination of the inheritor of the throne to the Austro-Hungarian Empire:Franz Ferdinand. He was killed in Sarajevo by the Serbian terrorist band the Black Hand in June 28, 1914. They wanted independence of Serbia, but the Austro-Hungarians decided to crush Serbian nationalismdemanding the assassins be brought to justice. A long chain of alliances and war declarations followed: Serbia, Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, France, the UK... Other nations would join the war like the Commonwealth, the U.S., Japan, Italy…The issue of country borders was a key factor. This war was active at the beginning but after some time, it became static (the trenches). The Battle of the Sommewasa mass slaughter. The Wasteland or No Man’s Land was the terrain between the trenches of both sides. Shells turned everything into mud, unfamiliar. There were really complex settlements with complex trench systems (secondary trenches). The day-to-day in the trenches was boring and alienating. It became a particular geography with particular conditions that no one had experimented before. Soldiers had to live there for a long time. There was a series of routines: Sunrise and sunset acquired an almost mythological status for the soldiers. // Soldiers were not professional, and they were untrained young men. WWI was a devastating conflict whit new machinery, machines beingused against human force (WWII would be machine vs. Machine). They had not been considered a danger but something positive involving progress, but the war changed this, becoming something destructive and dangerous provoking the death at a massive scale. Airplanes, tanks, barbwire, machine guns, poisonous gas/mustard gas and gas masks (alien look and strangeness effect). British felt outraged, because it broke their spirits, but they themselves would use it too. This new war situation went against their war system before, which was a kind of game, something related to honour. Military strategies didn’t adapt themselves to the new war situation. A lot of common men died unprepared and unarmed.In literature,dichotomies would become poignant: -Day-night -Life-death -Sky-earth:soldiers spent their time at earth level, a symbol of protection but also a place to die. Sky would be a holy place but deadly too, due to shells. Poets became obsessed with birds (the only nature they could appreciate) -Beauty-the grotesque:the beauty of nature or landscape before being ravaged and the grotesque of living with the bodies of fallen soldiers in the trenches -Nature-machines:poems were related to nature. Machines become something evil and lethal. -Present-past:the most important dichotomy. There was a confidence that everything was going to be better, but war changed it. People will exaggerate the summer before the war (the idyllic and beautiful summer of 1914), nostalgic feeling. The present brought no hope.
-Friends-enemies:this idea changed during the war, in 1914 there was a spontaneous Christmas reunion between enemies. It was in the Battle of the Somme (1916), when enemies started to be considered as evil. Thousands of soldiers died in 3 weeks. There was a break with the past, a shift. -Home-front: war was something unrealistic, because at home everything carried on as usual. Blight woundswere the dream of most soldiers: light wounds to be sent home to recover. -Myth-reality: the war wasn’t considered real and people will start to resort to old myths to express it. Soldiers couldn’t express themselves and shared their experiences at home, because nothing like that had happened before. // Reading and writing were the main entertainments (especially letters). A whole generation of young men had been trained to appreciate British literature and the classics. It was possible for lower classes to have access to this knowledge too, something unprecedented.William Morris (medieval stories), Tennyson (recovering Arthurian legends), Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress , a Christian allegory), John Buchan (39 Steps, a story of intrigue and espionage), Georgian poetry: Massefield, Brooke… rural settings, pastoral and happy life.
Paul Fussell-The Great War and Modern Memory
-The list of words in page 22: the high diction language wants to hide the ugly reality in which soldiers fought, it was the “official language”, used in propaganda. It was a resource to get people involved. As the war progressed, it became an obscene language. People who used this language would be trying to fool you.
-Sporting spirit: war is compared to sport (football, cricket), full of naivety. The Prussians were not very sportsmanlike with the gas. This insane spirit prevailed in the Army for too long.
-England did have an established literary canon of writers that was very recurrent by war poets. The Americans didn’t seem to have this. Education in England was based on the classics and English literature, which helped to the literacy of the population (aristocratic and democratic). The Great War occurred at the peak of literature, there was unique public respect for literature. Soldiers loved literatureand they read extensively in order to talk about it later.
-The idealized countryside comes from a long standing tradition of pastoral poetry in England. The fact that the Industrial Revolution began in England (with its environmental consequences) and the imperialist exile from home boosted the idealization of the English countryside as rural paradise. Gardening was another of their passions, used to fight the ugliness of war.
David Jones (1895-1974)-In Parenthesis (1937)
He incorporates a lot of British traditiontogether with Celtic references, as he came from Wales. He fought in Mametz Wood (one of the biggest battles together with The Somme).
There were no real words to describe the war experiences, so writers resorted to medieval romance texts (myths) in order to express themselves. The present was weird so it brought a feeling of nostalgia for an almost paradise-like past (the English rural-paradise). He shares theexperiences of his platoon.A soldier is a common man and at the same time he is a medievalknight and a half-god. The new order of things is unknown and this would bring fear and contradictory feelings, not only because of war, but also because of the new discoveriessuch as Einstein’s relativity theory or Sigmund Freud’s theory on different levels of consciousness.