"The First World War is a period of history with which we have yet to come to terms, and which continues to haunt our culture." The Literary Encyclopedia
The success of contemporary British novelist Pat Barker's 1990s Regeneration trilogy and its subsequent film adaptation has opened new interest in World War One and indicates that Britain may at last be ready to confront the full atrocity of that unnecessary, unfinished and unconscionably mismanaged war. So unbearable were life and death alike in trench warfare that works of imagination in Britain struggled to face its full horrors squarely. Indeed, the literary history of 20th Century Britain to 1945 - including works as diverse as Lady Chatterley's Lover and Lord of the Rings - is traceably scarred by festering wounds of the "War to End all Wars." In this course we will read and examine several now-neglected masterpieces by important British writers of the period, and see how each in its own artistic terms both succeeds and fails to respond adequately the (perhaps literally) unspeakable horrors of the trenches. We will look too at a few of the great First World War poets, including Sassoon and Owen, who, writing as they did from front-line experience, more immediately recorded those terrors, like gas warfare and shell shock, not even named before their devastation was accomplished.
NOTE: The BBC comedy series Blackadder Goes Forth, set in World War One, will be seen in clips throughout the course to give dramatic background and satiric analysis of the events. Testimony to the unresolved status of World War One in Britain, laughter turned to cathartic sorrow when first broadcast of the series' poignant conclusion produced national weeping.
Corelli, Marie The Sorrows of Satan
Forester, C. S. The General
Ford, Maddox Ford Parade's End
Woolf, Virginia Jacob's Room
Waugh, Evelyn Vile Bodies
Silkin, John, ed. Penguin Book of First World War Poetry
The following texts will be placed on reserve in the library: Women's Fiction &; the Great War by Raitt & Tate; Regeneration by P. Barker; The Great War in British Literature by A. Barlow; and The War in the Trenches by A. Lloyd.
10% Class participation
10% Class presentation
20% Mid-term paper (approx. 2000 words)
20% Group project
40% Final paper (approx. 3500 words)