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And the Miss Ran Away with the Rake eHose within the former Austro Hungarian Empire for whom the war was the complete opposite of those thingsIf you want a book that confirms practicallyvery bias Trickle Down Tyranny: Crushing Obama's Dream of the Socialist States of America exhibited by whatveryone knows about the First World War The Great War and Modern Memory is the way to go in part in fact it is responsible for crafting what The Pocket Wife everyone knows so thoroughly influential has it been I would rather a newcomer read practically anythinglse though at least at firstIn addition to all the above there have been further and uite merited criticisms from feminist scholars who have noted that Fussell s characterization of modern memory is often The Color of Our Sky exclusively masculine Even his gestures towards sexuality and romantic love are primarily homosexual and homosocial Claire Tylee s The Great War and Women s Consciousness 1990 is probably the best book lengthngagement with Fussell s ideas in this regard if you can find a copy If you don t feel like reading an ntire book on this the same author s The Great War and Modern Memory What is Being Repressed in Women s Studies uarterly 233 4 1995 offers an article lengthed precisIt remains an ssential work though one with a reputation that is slowly and I may say thankfully Obsession eroding There are several that could be said to have supplanted it or at least supplemented itSamuel Hynes A War Imagined The First World War and English Culture 1990 has become a standard text on this subject though also a controversial one from an historical point of view Hynes characterizes the war as a gap in history and to the point insists that those whoxperienced it viewed it in the same way While Hynes is far comprehensive in the types and amount of literature he surveys than Fussell was he still tends to highlight only those works that confirm what he proposes about the war s historical impact Plenty is Cabaret: A Roman Riddle excluded More to the point Hynes writes of what he calls The Myth of the war a generation of innocent young men their heads full of high abstractions like Honour Glory and England went off to war to make the world safe for democracy They were slaughtered in stupid battles planned by stupid generals Those who survived were shocked disillusioned andmbittered by their war xperiences and saw that their real nemies were not the Germans but the old men at home who had lied to them They rejected the values of the society that had sent them to war and in doing so separated their own generation from the past and from their cultural inheritanceWhile Hynes acknowledges as he should that this is an absurd oversimplification of verything involved in it it is nevertheless the mythic lens through which many modern people observe the war The myth he says has value ven though it is historically suspect I don t All Roads Lead Home entirely agree myself Hynes cites the myth to mean in his words not a falsification of reality but an imaginative version of it The historian would say that it is indeed a falsification of reality to claim the things in the uoted paragraph above or at least an overt rhetoricization of realityAnyway Hynes is not the only one worth considering though the text remains a big one Janet Watson s Fighting Different Wars Experience Memory and the First World War in Britain 2004 is a fantastic volume that attempts to offer a rigorously historicized corrective to the work produced by the likes of Fussell or Hynes She is particularly interested in the period s book culture but also in how those whoxperienced the war men women children veryone conceived of that xperience alternately as work or service The two conceptions produce very different reactions and inform very different types of cultural memory and Watson does a marvelous job unpacking the implications Well worth checking out if you can get itI should close by admitting that ven in spite of all the above the book does have merits Fussell is nothing if not an ngaging writer and the analyses he provides of Graves Blunden The Mephisto Threat (Paul Tallis et al is uite good indeed The book was also very important in opening up new lines of inuiry into the war and its culture that have since borne much promising fruit For the book itself though the day has rather passed For the student already well versed in the backdrop of the war itself there s much here to benjoyed I just wouldn t put it into the hands of a neophyte Read for a history course at Southwest Texas State in the 1980s It was a before and after book Before the Great War was retronymed World War One in my database after it was not That by itself was a huge reorientation of my thinkingA friend called this read to mind today and I got to thinking about historiography and its pleasures the mental laziness of accepting the nonce words bandied about instead of seeking out the contemporaneous views and languageArmistice Day instead of Veterans Day for xamplePaul Fussell s work was always linguistically xact and intellectually xacting It was all the formative for me because of that I don t guess too many people will thunder out to grab copies of this sizable and dense tome I call it a pity The xercise for the brain would make it well worth the spondulix This masterful book published in 1975 provides a rewarding set published in 1975 provides a rewarding set Just Cause explorations in the way ourxperience of the war has been captured by literature and thereby filtered into our collective memory and understanding of it Fussell focuses almost xclusively on the British xperience at the Western Front which includes out of the 500 miles of
the continuous linecontinuous line the Belgian coast to Switzerland the trenches of the Somme region of Picardy and of the Yrpes salient in Flanders His thesis is that the uniue ualities of the war in its senseless slaughter severely challenged the ability of any narrative to capture its horrors but that the work of fiction memoir and poetry by certain notable participants forged some lasting truths that conform to an ironic turn in the literary nterprise This in turn paved the way for the reactions after the war in the Modernist masterpieces of irony by non participants with better writing talent g Joyce Woolf Pound Eliot and later for a unfettered vision of its absurdity and obscenity in postmodernist works like Heller s Catch 22 and Pynchon s Gravity s Rainbow despite their ostensible settings of World War 2 The long stalemate in trench warfare and its unprecedented levels of casualties due to automatic weapons and intensive artillery barrages contribute to the unusual ualities of this war so difficult to convey in its reality There was such a yawning gap between what was xpected of the ill prepared men and what they could achieve between the platitudes and uphemisms of the officers and the press and the reality in the field So many deaths with no territory gained did not jive with any propaganda gloss of honorable sacrifice Life in the trenches with its mud lice rats and stench of xcrement and decaying bodies long periods of bombardment and hopeless raids against machine guns and gas attacks was a hell beyond reach of metaphors one might use to boost objective description All but the most peasant level of soldiers were surprisingly steeped in classical literature and Victorian romantic and pastoral traditions Most tropes for xpressing meaning in xistence worked only by way of contrast with life before the war or ven the relatively short distances from the front As in all wars your mate was your one core pathway to xpressing a capacity to be human and such bonds acuired an spiritual uality in the collective records and writings of this time with the homoerotic lements submerged or sublimated As for God The Perfect Christmas Gift either he was on a strike or out to lunch Many in letters home reach for references to Bunyan s passage through a dangerous wasteland in Pilgrim s Progress or the biblical Valley of the Shadow of Death The troglodyte life below ground and constant watch on the blasted landscape of no man s land before themngendered a special relationship with the sky above as about their only connection to the
Natural World The Daily Cycles Of Workworld The daily cycles of work daytime post in the forward firing trenches sleep and feeding time in support and reserve trenches a couple hundred yards behind and intense work on refortification and body removals under cover of darkness rendered a ritual purpose to a Sisyphean The Taste of Night existence The stand to group sessions at dawn and dusk was anspecially significant turning point for anointing the isolated individuals with a sense of shared fate and nlightenment over calls for active attacks or defense For many the unreality of their role in the war felt just like the pretense behind acting in a play the three acts naturally fell to training in the first act time at the front for the second and return home the hoped for third actThe geography of the situation forever changed English language usage Almost daily one can feels choes of the war in the common usage of no man s land over the top and The Trust entrenched When TS Eliot in the 20s used The Waste Land in his poem you can presume the connection despite noxplicit reference to the war beyond bodies fertilizing fields Because of constraints on the press the true status of the war was obscured from the public behind uphemisms If a journalist described fighting as sharp or brisk that kind of adjective tended to refer to an outcome of casualties around 50% Everyone reached to make some kind of story out of a life so obviously just a cog in a nihilistic universe Inevitably irony and dark humor was the only mode of xpression that could come close to capturing the reality and render a means to put it into place Here a common soldier fights back with such a pose One s revulsion to the ghastly horrors of war was submerged in the belief that this war was to The Return end all wars and Utopia would arise What an illusion In the hands of serious writers after the reality of this war those who attempted to apply a romantic or pastoral cast to life at the front are trumped by the ones that succeeded with modes of irony and farce Fussell details how it is that David Jonespic poem about his war xperience In Parenthesis applied allusions to Arthurian myths and other old narratives but failed to levate this conflict to the standard heroic scenarios for plucky but reserved Brits at war With Kipling s history of the Irish brigade his son fought and died with Fussell makes us see how inappropriate his crafted rhetoric is with its prose rhythms alliteration and imposed causalities which leaves us to wonder Is there any way of compromising with the reader s Prince Hafizs Only Vice expectations that written history ought to be interesting meaningful and the cruel fact that much of what happens all of what happens is inherently without meaning By contrast he finds Sassoon s poetry and autobiographical trilogy Sherston s Progress makes a better frame to capture the paradoxical truths of humanxperience of the war consistent with him being both an heroic combat leader and ventually a conscientious war objector In setting down so well his transitions from self centered fox hunter to a band of brother warriors and as a conseuence of visits or medical recovery to England to a voice of resistance to the waste and advocate of a negotiated peace Big ironies for him was how his lucid sanity about the war got him treated at a psychiatric hospital and how the old nobility of loyalty to your men was what led him to choose to return to the front Despite the appearance of a memoir with names changed the work leaves out that Sassoon was gay and that he was intensely active in writing and publishing poetry in this period and neglects the personal impact of his friendship with and mentorshiop of fellow poet Willfred Owen at the hospitalSassoon s friend Robert Graves also wins high marks from Fussell for successfully capturing the miserable state of the British soldier and military society in his Good bye to All That Though called a memoir he later admitted that many lements were fictional additions to give the general reader what they wanted and to boost sales including assurance that the most painful chapters were the most jokiest Despite all the fictional And Bid Him Sing: A Biography of Countée Cullen elements Fussell finds it a great record of truth and noble in its application of farce as an antidote to war Its brilliance and compellingnergy reside in its structural invention and in its perpetual resourcefulness in imposing the patterns of farce and comedy onto the blank horrors or meaningless vacancies of Bachelors and Bunnies: The Sexual Politics of Playboy experience If it really were a documentary transcription of the actual it would be worth very little and would surely not be as it is infinitely re readable It is valuable just because it is not true in that wayA poet we remember Aristotle saying is one who mastered the art of. Lies contexts both actual and literary for writers who have mostffectively memorialized the Great War as an historical xperience with conspicuous imaginative and artistic meaning These writers include the classic memoirists Siegfried Sassoon Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden and poets David Jones Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen In his new introduction Fussell discusses the critical responses to his work the authors and works that inspired his own writing and the lements whi. THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY is the kind of war book that is Girl in Pieces especially cherished by people who feel morally obligated to hate war or perhaps accurately to hate the soldiers mostly but not always men who fight it Back in the days of Operation Desert Storm when Barnardducated NY Times columnist Anna uindlen was sneering at American combat troops as blue collar rabble not smart not rich not directed nough for college she also found time to make a ritualistic little salute to that graceful writer Paul FussellBut you can t always judge a man by the friends he chooses or who choose himOn one level this certainly is an anti war classic Paul Fussell ffectively dramatizes the horror ugliness and futility of life in the trenches using yewitness accounts historical records and the best literature and poetry written after the war by the survivors But the irony that may not be apparent to privileged noncombatants like Anna uindlen is that the war and its legacy had a brutalizing ffect on Bridging Liberalism and Multiculturalism in American Education everyone soldier and civilian alike Perhaps the most brilliant passage in the book describes how the war in the trenches by its very nature forced the combatants to see the men on the other side not as men at all but as a sub human menace as the Other Fussell describes how this way of thinking continued well after the war and how it infected men from all walks of life The facelessnemy of the trenches soon became Tolkien s Orcs Hitler s Jews William Faulkner s Snopes Clan Anthony Burgess Alex and Droogs This is revelatory writing full of fresh insight and Fussell deserves full credit for the brilliance of his intellect and the scope of his vision The irony however and Paul Fussell appreciated irony far than some of his later followers is that the privileged lite who comprise today s anti war left are themselves a product of the trenches When she dismissed over one million men and women as not smart not rich not directed nough for college Anna uindlen was herself upholding a long and dishonorable tradition None of us were human to her then or now To her and to the privileged who share her prejudices to this day in America the men and women of the Armed Forces are themselves the Huns the Pigs The Babykillers the Famine Irish or simply The OtherPaul Fussell understood his followers a lot better than his followers understood him Extraordinary One of the best books I ve read on WWI By Cruise Control employing literary critiue Fussell manages to capture virtuallyvery aspect of the war from its mammoth obscenity to its myriad tiny obscenities to the beauties of light and birdsong as xperienced in the trenches to the social fabric of the poor doomed trench bound souls to the wit and wonder of The Wipers Times I cannot recommend this book highly nough for conveying the vast and complex reality of WWI Perhaps Fussell s idiosyncratic approach was one of the only ways to really convey the true nature of this monumental cesspit of humanity s failureOf dozens of books I ve read on WWI both memoirs and first generation and second generation histories I consider The Great War and Modern Memory absolutely one of the City Limits essential works on the topic My short list also includes Tardi s Ctait la Guerre de Tranche s Graves Goodbye to All That Sassoon s Memoirs of an Infantry Officer Blunden s Undertones of War Penguin s compilation of First War verse Modris Eksteins Rites of Spring and Keegan s traditional history The First World WarI consider WWI the birthplace of our current global condition the point at which European hegemony began to crumble via its own immolation and the beginnings of the global movement towards liberation self determination and universal human rights I rarely read non fiction but this just took my breath away It s both a wonderful and achingly sad introduction to the poets and writers who merged or didn t from World War I as well as an ye opening description of how that conflict shaped modern life A great book Using the tools of literary criticism to reflect on WW1 Fussell digs into how the war changed consciousness It was the war Fussell argues that makes the modern age an age of irony Traditional notions of the war virtues like honour valour and bravery disappeared into the shit and mud of the Western Front The cynicism towards authority and the official view portrayed in newspapers tc started in the war The troops could read The Times or The Daily Mail in the trenches two days after it was published They would read nothing of the great disasters of British arms such as The Battle of the SommeThere is so much to this book Page after page there are fascinating observations about how the imagination of this generation of Englishmen possibly THE most literate ie imbued with literary tastes shaped their reactions to the war A small point but one of many is that while the red poppy was indeed all over the battlefields so too was the blue cornflower But it was a peculiar English literary convention that settled upon the poppy as the symbolic flower of the war This flower of spring while it symbolised life was also short lived The red suggested the blood of life and the blood of violent young death There are other overtones to the poppy that perhaps the official remembrance committees would like to overlook Fussell analysis goes to places that are no doubt uncomfortable for the Colonel Blimp s of this world such as a certain homo roticism Culture and Enchantment evident in much of the poetry and prose that came out of the war Words and the shape they give to our memories and imaginations individually and collectively affectven the most visceral of xperiences like modern warfare I did not understand this so fully until I read this book Note I ve read this book twice the first time years ago I set the read date as today so it updates on the Facebook wall properlyIn this landmark text from 1975 Fussell an American scholar and veteran looks at a selection of writings from certain soldier authors on the Western Front and xamines the implications of same when it comes to how the war should best be understood It s difficult to D DAY Through German Eyes 2 express how influential this book has been or how widely it has been hailed since its publication it won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award and is on the list of the Modern Library s one hundred best important non fiction books of the twentieth century It has never been out of print and comes in three distinctditions the original 1975 volume from the Oxford University Press the 2000 follow up to same a 25th Anniversary Baroque Personae edition that boasted a new afterword from the author and the most recent a lavish new illustrateddition from Sterling released in 2012 on the occasion of the author s death It is greatly Democratic Art expanded with full colour plates throughout and the layout though not the content has been substantially revisedI repeat that it s anxtraordinarily influential work and has had a citation history since its publication that could almost be described as Total that is it was very hard for a very long time to find a book on the war that did not include some nod to Fussell and his ideas It also led to a trend in naming books about the war with a similar convention see Stefan Goebel s The Great War and Medieval Memory 2007 or Jason Crouthamel s The Great War and German Memory 2009 for but two Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths? examples there are many but I guess I can t really complain about thatIn anyvent it s a big deal so why am I upsetFussell has faced a steady stream of criticism from historians of the war he is primarily a literary scholar as am I but ven than that has characterized himself first as a pissed off infantryman for his over reliance on an archly ditorial tone and a tendency to indulge in Codependent Forevermore: The Invention of Self in a Twelve Step Group errors of fact when it makes for a good narrative There s a now famous critiue of the book by the military historians Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson that first appeared in War in History 11 1994 in which the two compare it to his later similar work on WWII Wartime Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War 1989 The second book is another story but when it comes to the first they are critical of what they see as Fussell s hostility to anything resembling official history and of his reliance upon utterly subjective literaryngagements to tell the real truth This anyway is one of the famous critiues there are certainly othersFor his own part Fussell has responded to his critics in the Afterwood to the 2000 Conscience and Memory: Meditations in a Museum of the Holocaust edition of his work after a fashion Hisrrors of fact and grossly polemic tone remain in that Conscience and Memory edition and in the new illustrateddition too and all he offers in response is the suggestion that his critics are heartless apathetes who don t understand suffering and that as he was only writing in the Pansy Vol. 6 elegaic mood to begin with demanding historical accuracy of him was a foolish move on their part Yeah how dare they He haslsewhere made it clear in an Edible Memory: The Lure of Heirloom Tomatoes and Other Forgotten Foods essay included in his Thank God for the Atom Bomb collection though I can t remember its name that he thinks authors who respond to their critics in depth are idiots so I guess it was never meant to be but an ounce of humility might have been niceAnyway with due admission of the importance it holds to many people and the reputation that it has won there is much about that makes it a very poor bookFussell makes a very big deal about how he wants to get back to what the real regular men doing the real fighting had to say and think about the warxperience and to wrest command of this idea away from the intellectuals the generals the politicians the official narrative To do this he has written a book that offers as real regular men such luminaries as Siegfried Sassoon Robert Graves Edmund Blunden and Wilfred Owen men that is who were all recipients of Elizabeth I expansiveducations Education in a New Society enjoyed a great deal of leisure in their civilian lives Sassoon was as notorious for his fox hunting as he was for his literary salons forxample and had such xuisitely artistic intellectual sensibilities that their first response to combat was to write sonnets about it As fantastic as these writers
"were and as impressive specimens of men regular they are notFussell indulges in gross sensationalism as a "and as impressive specimens of men regular they are notFussell indulges in gross sensationalism as a of course in a bid to support his book s overarching thesis which is that war generally and the Great War ven so is a fundamentally ironic nterprise He conveys facts about the war in a manner calculated to bring out their apparent irony and stupidity but it is very asy to go too far
with this as he does when he blandly asserts in the book s arly pagesthis as he does when he blandly asserts in the book s arly pages the war saw ight million men killed because an archduke and his wife had been shot paraphrased but not by much I can get the actual citation if you like This is the kind of thing as are various claims about Sir Douglas Haig that s of a nature so trivializing reductive and vicious that it would likely see a student who attempted it drummed out of his program The unelouent Sir Douglas attempt to offer some words of inspiration to the BEF during the German Spring Offensive of 1918 which resulted in the catastrophic rout of the British army along a considerable front arns him a comparison to Hitler for xampleThere s also a certain strange ignorance on display in what he chooses to address someone so fixated on the war s
Irony And The Literary Dimensions Of It Can Not Easilyand the literary dimensions of it can not asily forgiven for having nothing whatever to say about the death of HH Saki Munro in 1916 Saki was one of the most famous English literary ironists of his time and the supremely ironic manner of his death cut down by a sniper in the act of scolding an nlisted man for lighting a too noticeable cigarette at night would seem to make him an ideal inclusion in a book of this sort But no not ven mentioned once At another point Fussell says something factually incorrect about Kipling s The Irish Guards in the Great War 1923 and then uses this Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation error as a platform from which to breezily attack Kipling s character This was actually the first deficiency I noticed in the work when I read it for the first time and it put me on my guard at onceThere are other things he fails to mention and with considerably important conseuences He views the war as always an ironic and chaoticnterprise and so studiously neglects to include anything about those Gender Justice elements of the war that were neither ironic norspecially chaotic You will look in vain for anything useful in this book about the war in the air or at sea or on the many non Western fronts that saw real gains being made in measurable and conseuential ways The war s purposelessness and futility are again and again hammered home but without giving any recognition to the Generations and Collective Memory experience of the many countries and peoples such as The year 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most original and gripping volumesver written about the First World War Fussell illuminates a war that changed a generation and revolutionised the way we see the world He xplores the British xperience on the western Front from 1914 to 1918 focusing on the various literary means by which it has been remembered conventionalized and mythologized It is also about the literary dimensions of the xperience itself Fussell supp.
Free read The Great War and Modern MemoryTelling lies successfully that is dramatically interestingly And what is a Graves A Graves is a tongue in cheek neurasthenic farceur whose material is fact Graves is a joker a manic illusionist Being a Graves is a way of being scandalously Celtish It is a way perhaps the only way left of rebelling against the positivistic pretensions of non Celts and satirizing the preposterous scientism of the twentieth century His nemies are always the same solemnity certainty complacency pomposity cruelty And it was the Great War that brought them to his attentionThe third memoir that Fussell delves deeply into is Edmund Blunden s Undertones of War My past readings have made me very aware of Sassoon and Graves but I had not heard of this well revered British poet and Guitar Makers: The Endurance of Artisanal Values in North America essayist He was a shepherd s son who advanced the pastoral traditions of literature so prominent in the 19th century he later wrote the monumental Nature in English Literature What we get in his writing on his battalion at the front are innumerable perversions of the pastoral and a vision of an overall travesty of nature Bullets whiz like insects and skulls underfoot seem like mushrooms But overall theffect is to pit spoiled nature and lost innocence as a counter to war and to hold the unnecessary suffering and cruelty up to shame us all He finds his approach one of admirable literary bravery In a world where literary uality of Blunden s sort is conspicuously an antiue God's Choice: The Total World of a Fundamentalist Christian School every word of Undertones of Warvery rhythm allusion and droll personification can be recognized as an assault on the war and on the world which chose to conduct and continue it It suggests what the modern world would look like to a sensibility that was genuinely civilizedIsaac Rosenberg is another author of focus here that I wa When war broke out the undergraduate Robert Graves pictured what service he might render as garrison duty literally holding down the fort while the professional Regular Army charged to glory on the continent The 100000 strong force of British Regulars ferried across the channel in August 1914 to protect Belgium and assist the French was all used up by arly November It is said the high command and the staff officers survived the old army was beyond recall This isn t war cried an appalled Lord Kitchener when he learned of the casualties consumed in the first collisions of those ignorant and hopeful armies coming on with storybook airs and futuristic firepower To me the arly clashes of autumn 1914 make one of the fascinating pisodes of the Great War A voice from within the whirlwind This is a terrible war and I don t suspect there is an idle British soldier in France I wonder where it will nd one hears so much There has been fighting and loss of life crowded into seven weeks than there was in the whole of South Africa It is awful what the Brigade of Guards have lost and being like one big regiment one knows veryone and feels it all the The last two days have been ghastly The Germans broke through the line We have lost ten officers in the last two days and yesterday the battalion was less than 200 men though I xpect some stragglers will turn up All the officers in my company were lost Foraging for Survival except myself We have had no rest at all Everyone is very shaken The soldier writing his mother thus in September 1914 was twenty one year old 2nd Lt Neville Leslie Woodroffe 1st Battalion Irish Guards the regiment in which Rudyard Kipling lost two sons and whose official history he wrote At First Ypres on 6 November Woodroffe and the remnants of his company were all shot down counterattacking a trench from which they d been ousted I think he s a beautiful Georgian war martyr than the Bloomsbury Apollo Rupert Brooke Thatye Haunting And it s hard to imagine this Fragments ephebic studio apotheosis bearded and begrimed and blasting at Germans with a rifleEngland at war Fussell s pictures are fascinating Life seemed to stand uneasily still and in no direction was there any prospect Churchill the Regular Army obliterated Deadlock the government silent but there are rumors in the pubs and families in mourningverywhere you look But of course they don t and can t know Lloyd George a draft of millions for 1916 s war nding Big Push the slaughter of infantry changes nothing decides nothing 60000 men down on the first day and Haig buts away at the German lines for another five months until 400000 are gone the Front so near the guns audible to Kent and Sussex
an officer granted leave breakfasts in the trenches and dines at his club in London Bothofficer granted leave breakfasts in the trenches and dines at his club in London Both Mason and Harrod s specialized in gift assortments for the front Fortnum s fruit cake being specially popular for lasting well a society s powers of uphemism and denial strained to the limit Keep Calm Carry On Don t think you know better than Haig scapegoat the Pacifist for saying what we all fear Open Secrets so many have died and nothing is working a generation of Britons flounders in slime and shit drowns in a vast xcremental slough scattered in the millions of muddy men are the poets Sassoon Owen Blunden nter the Armageddonite landscape plowed by infernal ngines carrying with them three hundred years of sophisticated literary pastoralism England s inheritance of dulcet rural airs and homoerotic legy The stylistic traditionalism of most of England s Great War writing Fussell writes has prevented us from seeing its connections to modernism Fussell made me feel bad for having uncritically accepted the Stein Lawrence view at least as summarized by Ann Douglas that American writers were best suited to writing the Great War because of America s relative detachment from English literary convention specious flummery anyway because of its recent xperience of mechanized attrition the Civil War because of the nervous tension and demonic primitivism of classic American literature Moby Dick Poe s nightmares and because of the precedents of spare and unsentimental war writing in American prose Ambrose Bierce Grant s and Sherman s memoirs That s all well and good Fussell says if you don t care about irony Fussell is interested in English war writing because Sassoon Owen and Blunden modify ironically the pre modern tropes and imagery with which they must describe a modern One Ticket To Texas experience Sardonic but deeply consciousngagement with tradition the oneness of innovation and remembering new meanings from old meanings is what interests Fussell Literature is writing that remembers and refers and Fussell doesn t buy the argument rather the attitude the pose that Literature is made mute by horrors I dunno I find Wilfred Owen too richly Keatsian and Hemingway spare to the point of half wittedness Fussell ranges beyond WWI memoirs and poems to show how the Great War produced a mythic narrative of twentieth century technological conflict that later writers absorbed and augmented none brilliantly than Pynchon Fussell refers to Gravity s Rainbow throughout and in his conclusion says it represents almost the first time the ritual of military remembering is freed from all puritan lexical constraint and allowed to take place with a full appropriate obscenity I ve heard Gravity s Rainbow invoked as a digest of wildly different insights so it must be one of those mega anatomies touching Everything I ll add it to the list of to reads spawned by this by Helpmate every book When Bill aka uo recommended this to me a couple of weeks ago I really didn t think I would get to it anytime soon I also decided that it would be a military book or sorts dealing perhaps with how what is remembered of a war isn t necessarily what actually happened If that had been what it was about it would have been an interestingnough book but this proved much better than I could have anticipatedThis book looks at how various mostly British writers wrote about the Great War and what their writing about the war meant for modern literature and therefore how we then came to understand that war and all wars subseuent to it It also provides insight into what people wrote home so normal writers too not just poets and writersThis is a glorious book I have learnt so much from it and as a piece of literary criticism I was thinking that it is perhaps as good an introduction to that subject as you can find There are lovely bits to this His discussion of the power of the numb Very Art, Culture, and Cuisine: Ancient and Medieval Gastronomy enjoyable very thought provoking but not necessarily very convincing Fussell s sui generis book is anxtended literary criticism masuerading as social history or perhaps the other way round There are various arguments going on in here but the main thrust is that much of how we think about the modern world indeed our whole contemporary mindset has its origin in ideas that came about as an attempt to respond to the unprecedented scale and irony of the 1914 18 conflict Irony is the crucial term And a famously vague one let me first like a teenager giving a graduation speech turn to the OED s third sense of the wordA state of affairs or an vent that seems deliberately contrary to what was or might be xpected an outcome cruelly humorously or strangely at odds with assumptions or xpectationsFor Fussell Every war constitutes an irony of situation because its means are so melodramatically
Disproportionate To Its Presumedto its presumed and the Great War was ironic than any before or since Highlighting the insanity of trench warfare and the ridiculous proximity of the trenches to home Fussell first traces the various ways people responded to this grotesue irony and then considers how it has affected language culture and thought processes sinceThough he does look at some contemporary letters and diaries his main sources of vidence are the great literary responses to the war Gypsy World: The Silence of the Living and the Voices of the Dead especially Sassoon Graves Blunden Owen and David Jones and he locates the source of all their techniues in irony assisted recall I love this attention to irony as the defining uality of the war but it alsopitomises a sense I had that Fussell was claiming a special status for the First World War that it didn t really possess After all irony is hardly new To me it seems to be a central part of war literature almost as far back as you can go Homeric irony is almost proverbialSimilarly it seems uite a claim to say that 1914 18 was unusually marked by a sense of adversary proceedings an us against them mentality since this is surely characteristic of the whole notion of what war is If anything the WWI literature I ve read has been notable for its awareness that the other side was Bryozoan Evolution exactly the same as them I think of the German and French soldiers trapped all night together in the shell hole in All uiet on the Western Front for instanceJust onexample to make my point Fussell believes there is something unusually theatrical in the English conception of this warDuring the war it was the British rather than the French the Americans the Italians the Portuguese the Russians or the Germans who referred to trench raids as shows or stunts And it is English playwrights or at least Anglo Irish ones like Wilde and Shaw who compose plays proclaiming at Crisis and Continuity at the Abbasid Court: Formal and Informal Politics in the Caliphate of Al-Muqtadir (295-320/908-32) every point that they are playsBut this is weird not just because of the ualification he needed in that last sentence but because when I think of deliberately artificial stagecraft I think of Brecht a German and the term used for this in modern theatre studies is a German one Verfremdungseffekt In general his idea of specifically national characteristics seems a bit strained he uses Manning s Her Privates We as anxample of how English writers were saturated with Shakespeare but Frederic Manning was an AustralianThere are several such uibbles I could adduce but none of them stopped me Silvers Edge enjoying Fussell s arguments most of which are brilliantly constructed He isspecially convincing on the pervasive influence of the Oxford Book of Verse on contemporary patterns of speech and thought and he has a fantastic ability to spot poetic choes buried in the most unlikely places When CE Montague writes of one destroyed battalion Seasons returned but not to that battalion returned the spirit of delight in which it had first learnt to soldier together perhaps it is not too difficult to discern the presence of Milton s Thus with the year Seasons return but not to me returns Day or the sweet approach of Ev n or Morn But Fussell also finds parallels to both Sassoon s The Kiss and Owen s Arms and the Boy in Bret Harte s What the Bullet Sang and there are other ven obscure Going Berserk examplesAn American he seems fascinated by thextent to which the idea of English Literature was a part of daily life for so
Many British Soldiers AndBritish soldiers and gathers a great deal of vidence from letters and diaries showing how common this was among all ranksCarrington once Ch influence our understanding and memory of war Fussell also shares the stirring xperience of his research at the Imperial War Museum's Department of Documents Fussell includes a new Suggested Further Reading ListFussell's landmark study of World War I remains as original and gripping today as Come Hell or High Water: Feminism and the Legacy of Armed Conflict in Central America ever before a literate literary and illuminating account of the Great War the one that changed a generation ushered in the modernra and revolutionized how we see the world 14 halftone.