English 139

The Cultures of English: Cultures of the Great War: Art in the Age of Decline

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2018 Jones, Donna V.
TTh 2-3:30 229 Dwinelle

Book List

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry; Breton, Andre: Nadja; Fussel, Paul: The Great War and Modern Memory; H.D.: Kora and Ka; Stein, Gertrude: Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway


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 inter-imperial 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.

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