Without World War I, what would literature look like today?Breaking News
tags: books, World War I
As we begin to commemorate the outbreak of World War I in earnest, just how central the “Great” war is to Britain’s conception of its history is ever more obvious. And this is also very true in terms of culture.
The war poets are routinely taught in schools. And the memoirs, novels, paintings, films and pieces of music produced in that period haven’t just produced our cultural memory of the war. They’ve made our culture virtually unimaginable without it. But it isn’t just these direct cultural products that I’m talking about. What might literature have looked like if it hadn’t been shaken by war?
It’s easy to point to the works we would not have had: the biting protests, satires, and traumas in the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, or Ivor Gurney; the equally disturbing, if more detatched and cynical, memoirs, such as Robert Graves’s Goodbye to All That or Sassoon’s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer.
But what we can’t say is what might have been written instead – though perhaps the one thing we can be sure of is that we wouldn’t have just had more of the same. If Owen hadn’t been killed in action exactly a week before the Armistice, doubtless he would have continued to write war poetry. But what would a man with his undeniable poetic genius have written without the war as a subject to goad him into brutal realism? How might he, and other talented writers killed in their youth, have developed if they’d had the chance to reach middle or old age? Would they have developed?
comments powered by Disqus
- History Says Bloomberg 2020 Would Be a Sure Loser
- Then and now: How Trump impeachment hearing is different
- Poland asks Netflix to make changes to documentary about Nazi death camp guard
- What is a caliph? The Islamic State tries to boost its legitimacy by hijacking a historic institution
- Russian Historian Professor, Found With Bag of Severed Arms, Admits He Killed Student
- Black Perspectives Publishes Online Forum: "Researching, Teaching, and Embodying the Black Diaspora"
- Distinguished professor, civil war historian James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr. passes away
- Noel Ignatiev, scholar who called for abolishing whiteness, dies at 78
- Historians Elizabeth Catte, Rebecca Solnit, and Peniel Joseph Quoted in Washington Post Article, "The Democrats Are Moving Left. Will America Follow?"
- When Southern Historians Made History Themselves