Module Identifier EN37020  
Academic Year 2001/2002  
Co-ordinator Dr Damian Walford Davies  
Semester Semester 2  
Other staff Mrs Carol Marshall  
Course delivery Seminar   20 Hours (10 x 2 hour seminar workshops)  
Assessment Continuous assessment   2 x 2,500 word essays   100%  
  Essay   Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements.    

Brief description

This module will examine the ways in which war is represented/constructed in poetry, and will discuss texts ranging from the Crimean (1853-56) through until the Second World War (1939-45) in an attempt to ascertain whether the category 'war poetry' is a valid one. Debates about war writing as experiential or non-experiential writing will be examined, as will the relation between history and the imagination; war and empire; gender in war writing; war poetry and popular culture; and identity and nationality in war literature. Through comparison of texts from different periods, students will heighten their awareness of the complex and controversial debates surrounding the genre of war writing itself, and examine the extent to which the production and interpretation of war poetry is conditioned by cultural, social and political factors. The time span of this option is intentionally long so that the effects of the technologies of war - how war itself changes - can be evaluated in a literary context.

Seminar Programme

1. Introduction What do we expect from war poetry? What is its role, and what are its predominant themes? Is 'war poetry' a useful category as a way of approaching poetry written in or about war time? What literary conventions - of heroes at the front and of women who wait at home - accrue to war poetry, and how are these accepted or inflected as war changes?

2. The Crimean War 1853-56: The focus here will be Tennyson's 'Charge of the Light Brigade' (1854) and its relationship to the newspaper reports of the same event. This seminar will also involve discussion of Tennyson's Maud and its relation to the Crimean War.

3. Jingoism and Patriotism This session will focus on the poetry of Rudyard Kipling and on the Boer War (1899-1902). Selected poems from the following volumes will be under discussion: Barrack-Room Ballads and Other Verses (1892); The Seven Seas (1896); The Five Nations (1903).

4. Dark Pastorals A.E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad (1896) and his Last Poems (1922), together with the 'War Poems' section of Thomas Hardy's Poems of the Past and the Present (1901).

5. First World War (i) With the Penguin Book of First World War Poetry as our basic text, the subject of this session will be the First World War poets: Brooke, Grenfell, McCrae, Seeger, Sorley, Thomas, Blunden, Gurney and Graves. Use will also be made of selected prose works relating to the Great War.

6. First World War (ii) The First World War poetry of Sassoon, Rickword, Read, Owen and Rosenberg. Selected prose works will also be used.

7. First World War (iii) David Jones's modernist epic of the Great War, In Parenthesis, together with First World War poetry written by women.

8. 'If you tolerate this, your children will be next' The poetry of the Spanish Civil War (1936-39)

9. Second World War (i) The poetry of Keith Douglas, Alun Lewis, Roy Fuller and others, together with selections from the prose writings of Douglas, Robert Graves and Herbert Read.

10. Second World War (ii) 'Civilian' poetry of the Second World War: Dylan Thomas, together with Edith Sitwell, Lois Clark and other women writers.

Set Texts

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry, ed. Jon Silkin (2nd edn., Penguin 1981)
The Virago Book of Women's War Poetry and Verse, ed. Catherine Reilly (Virago 1997)
Poetry of the Thirties, ed. Robin Skelton (Penguin 2000)
Selected Poems of Rudyard Kipling (Penguin 1993)
Poetry of the Second World War, ed. Desmond Graham (Pimlico 1998)
Selected Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson, ed. Aidan Day (Penguin 1991)


James R. Bennet, 'The Historical Abuse of Literature: Maud: A Monodrama and the Crimean War', English Studies 62 (1981), 34-45
Joanna Bourke, An Intimate History of Killing: Face to Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare (Granta, 1999)
Adrian Caesar, Taking it Like a Man: Suffering, Sexuality and the war Poets. Brooke, Sassoon, Owen, Graves (Manchester UP, 1993)
A. Calder, The People's War: Britain, 1939-45 (Panther, 1971)
A. Cardinal, D. Goldman, J. Hattaway (eds), Women's Writing on the First World War (Oxford UP, 1999)
Keith Douglas, Alamein to Zem Zem, ed. D. Graham (Oxford UP, 1979)
M. Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Bantam, 1989)
George Esenwein and Adrian Shubert, Spain at War: The Spanish Civil War in Context, 1931-39 (1995)
Simon Featherstone, War Poetry: An Introductory Reader (Routledge, 1995)
Marc Fero, The Great War (Routledge, 1982)
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford UP, 2000)
Jon Glover and Jon Silkin (eds), The Penguin Book of First World War Prose (1989)
D. Hibberd and J. Onions (eds), Poetry of the Great War (Houndmills, 1986)
S. Hynes, A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture (Bodley Head, 2000)
John Keegan, The Faces of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme (Penguin, 1983)
Alun Kenwood (ed.), The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical Reader (1993)
Paula M. Krebs, Gender, Race and the Writing of Empire: Public Discourse and the Boer War (Cambridge UP, 1999)
A.D. Lambert, The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy against Russia, 1853-56 (Manchester UP, 1990)
Martin Middlebrook, The First Day on the Somme (Penguin, 1984)
John Miller (ed.), Voices Against Tyranny: Writing of the Spanish Civil War (1986)
R. Palmer, 'What a Lovely War': British Soldiers' Songs from the Boer War to the Present Day (Michael Joseph, 1990)
John Peck, War, the Army and Victorian Literature (1998)
Janet Perez and Wendell Aycock (eds), The Spanish Civil War in Literature (1990)
Anne Powell (ed.), The Fierce Light: The Battle of the Somme, July-November 1916 (1996)
Mark Rawlinson, British Writing of the Second World War (Oxford UP, 2000)
Victor Selwyn (ed.), Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Collection (Everyman, 1985)
John Silkin, Out of Battle: The Poetry of the Great War (Oxford UP, 1972)
Angela K. Smith, The Second Battlefield: Women, Modernism and the First World War (Manchester UP, 2000)
M. Van Wyk Smith, Drummer Hodge: The Poetry of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) Clarendon Press, 1978)
Martin Taylor (ed.), Lads: Love Poetry of the Trenches (Constable, 1989)
Stanley Weintraub, The Last Great Cause: The Intellectuals and the Spanish Civil War (1968)

Aims and objectives

to introduce students to a range of war poetry from the mid-ninteenth to the mid-twentieth century, and to map the changes in form and content over this time;
to consider the extent to which the production and interpretation of war poetry is conditioned by cultural, social and political factors;
to evaluate the importance of gender and the direct experience of fighting in war writing.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:
demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of a range of war poetry from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century;
demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of the ways in which the production and interpretation of war poetry is conditioned by cultural, social and political factors;
demonstrate an ability to express themselves clearly in writing and in speech.