English R1A

Reading and Composition: War In Words: Literature of the Great War

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
12 Fall 2013 Abramson, Anna Jones
TTh 12:30-2 222 Wheeler

Book List

Blunden, Edmund: Undertones of War; Fussell, Paul: The Great War and Modern Memory; Sassoon, Siegfried: Memoirs of an Infantry Officer; Silkin, Jon: The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway


During World War 1, combatant poets wrote poetry directly from the trenches and even circulated literary publications while bursting shells and gunfire threatened sudden death at any moment. This co-incidence between exploding shells and explosive literary energy raises significant questions about the relationship between historical events and literary form. For example, what does it mean to conceptualize a “literary war”? How did war contribute to, coincide with, or resist modernist aesthetics? How do different literary forms represent or engage with war -- are certain writers more authorized to put war into words?

In this class we will tackle these questions from multiple vantage points in space and time. We will read combatant poetry written during the war itself as well as prose memoirs composed retrospectively during the war’s aftermath. We will also move from the frontlines to the home-front to consider the role of war in the works of civilian writers. This rigorous writing intensive course will help students hone skills in exposition and argument. Weekly writing exercises will be assigned in addition to longer papers with a minimum of 32 pages assigned.

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