English 139

The Cultures of English: Literature of The Great War

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2012 Jones, Donna V.
MWF 2-3 122 Wheeler


In the years following World War One, European intellectuals debated the implications of the new balance of power and the terms of the peace among the combatant nations, but they were haunted by the prospect of the decline of the West itself. A four-year global conflict that claimed 8.5 million lives and wounded 20 million soldiers, World War One destroyed any confidence that European history unfolded necessarily onward, upward, and progressively. World War One resulted not only in physical destruction but also the dissolution of world-views, mental coordinates, dominant images, and structuring metaphors of late-nineteenth century European thought. For example, the belated experiences of trauma and the dislocated speech of the shell-shocked soldier undermined the mechanist understanding of the mind as a mere calculator or chemical machine. The gradual unsettling of imperial authority also threw into question several ideological conceptions. Conscripts from throughout the colonized world participated in all aspects of this fully mechanized war and thus were exposed first-hand to the violent realities of interimperial rivalry.

The Great War was the watershed moment of modernity. In this course we will read literature that reveals to us how every aspect of life was transfigured by it.

The book list will include: Virginia Woolf: Mrs. Dalloway; The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry; Ernst Jünger: Storm of Steel; Paul Fussell: The Great War and Modern Memory; Leopold Senghor: Selected Poems W.E.B. DuBois: Dark Princess; and Gertrude Stein: Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas.

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