Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Support for Course Thesis on WWI

The indispensable Arts & Letters Daily has linked two articles that support my course thesis about the WWI horrors: one from a centre-left journal and one from a centre-right.

From the left, you heard this nearly verbatim in our opening lecture:
It is now conventional wisdom that the First World War and its senseless, unimaginable slaughter was the Ur-catastrophe of the last century. It brutalized a Europe that before 1914, though deeply flawed by injustice and arrogance, also contained the promise of great emancipatory movements, championing the demands for social justice, for equality, for women’s emancipation, for all of human rights. The war radicalized Europe; without it, there would have been no Bolshevism and no Fascism. In the postwar climate and in the defeated and self-deceived Germany, National Socialism flourished and ultimately made it possible for Hitler to establish the most popular, the most murderous, the most seductive and the most repressive regime of the last century.
From the right, an analogy between England before, after and during the First World War with the United States of America today:

At the beginning of the 20th century, the British Empire was an unopposed hyperpower (much as the United States has been since 1989). As historian Colin Cross observes: "In terms of influence it was the only world power" .... But after the conclusion of the first World War, Britain's imperial psyche began to fracture" .... Why did it all crumble? Several interrelated reasons - among them the grisly fact that England had lost virtually an entire generation of future leaders in the trenches of Europe. But another important cause was the waning of confidence on the part of liberal British elites .... In an important sense, the British Empire's strength failed because its elite liberal citizens stopped believing in it.
Most pertinent for us in the article from which this quotation is taken -- most especially in relation to Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End -- is the writer's premis (and our own course's thesis!) that England was irrecoverably ruined by the First World War: the Great War, that is, still directly effects all that is English -- its literature very much included.

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