Module Identifier EN37020  
Academic Year 2004/2005  
Co-ordinator Dr Damian Walford Davies  
Semester Semester 2  
Course delivery Seminars / Tutorials   20 Hours 10 x 2 hour seminar workshops  
Assessment TypeAssessment Length/DetailsProportion
Semester Assessment Continuous Assessment: 2 x 2,500 word essays  100%
Semester Assessment Essay: Resubmit any failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. 

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module students should typically be able to:

1. demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of a range of war poetry from the mid-nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century;

2. demonstrate an awareness of how war poetry from different periods stands in relation to a 'tradition' of war writing;

3. demonstrate an awareness of the cultural and political factors which condition war poetry, together with an awareness of the wider cultural issues dramatised by war poetry;

4. demonstrate an awareness of how war writing changes in response to factors such as technology.


This module aims:

1. 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;

2. to consider the extent to which the production and interpretation of war poetry is conditioned by cultural, social and political factors;

3. to evaluate the importance of gender and the direct experience of fighting in war writing.

Brief description

This module examines a range of poetic responses to conflict, from the Crimean War (1853-56) to the Second World War (1939-45). Which poets, and which wars, have conditioned our view of what constitutes 'authentic' war writing? The module will interrogate the rich variety and complexity of war poetry, and the time span of the option is intentionally long so that the effect of the technologies of war - how war itself changes - can be evaluated in a literary context. Through comparisons of texts from different periods, students will be able to gauge the extent to which production and interpretation of war poetry is conditioned by cultural, social and political factors. Issues to be considered include: war poetry as propaganda; war poetry and literary movements/genres (Modernism/pastoral); the representation of gender and identity in war writing; war writing and religion; war poetry and empire; war poetry and popular culture; the 'touristic' aspect of war writing; and civilian versus combatant representations of war.


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.

Reading Lists

** Should Be Purchased
Rudyard Kipling (ed. Peter Keating) (1993) Selected Poems of Rudyard Kipling Penguin
Jon Silkin (ed.) (1981) The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (2nd edition) Penguin
Robin Skelton (ed.) (2000) Poetry of the Thirties Penguin
Alfred Lord Tennyson (ed. Aidan Day) (1991) Selected Poems of Alfred Lord Tennyson Penguin
Victor Selwyn (ed.) (1996) Poems of the Second World War: The Oasis Collection Penguin/The Salamander Oasis Trust
** Recommended Consultation
Desmond Graham (ed.) (1998) Poetry of the Second World War Pimlico
James R. Bennett, 'The Historical Abuse of Literature: Maud: A Monodrama and the Crimean War' English Studies 62 (1981) pp.34-45
Tim Kendall, `Keith Douglas and Self-Elegy', Essays in Criticism 53:4 (October 2003), pp.366-383
Joanna Bourke (1999) An Intimate History of Killing: Face-to-Face Killing in Twentieth-Century Warfare Granta
Adrian Caesar (1993) Taking It Like A Man: Suffering, Sexuality and the War Poets Brooke, Sassoon, Owen, Graves Manchester University Press
A. Calder (1971) The People's War: Britain 1939-45 Panther
A Cardinal, D. Goldman, J. Hattaway (eds.) (1999) Women's Writing on the First World War Oxford University Press
Keith Douglas (edited D. Graham) (1979) Alamein to Zem Zem Oxford University Press
M. Eksteins (1989) Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age Bantam
George Esenwein and Adrian Shubert (1995) Spain at War: The Spanish Civil War in Context, 1931-39
Simon Featherstone (1995) War Poetry: An Introductory Reader Routledge
Marc Ferro (1982) The Great War Routledge
Paul Fussell (2000) The Great War and Modern Memory Oxford University Press
John Glover and Jon Silkin (eds.) (1989) The Penguin Book of First World War Prose Penguin
Catherine Reilly (ed.) (1997) The Virago Book of Women's War Poetry and Verse Virago
Stanley Weintraub (1968) The Last Great Cause: The Intellectuals and the Spanish Civil War
Martin Taylor (ed.) (1989) Lads: Love Poetry of the Trenches Constable
M. Van Wyk Smith (1978) Drummer Hodge: The Poetry of the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) Clarendon Press
Angela K. Smith (2000) The Second Battlefield: Women. Modernism and the First World War Manchester University Press
Jon Silkin (1972) Out of Battle: The Poetry of the Great War Oxford University Press
D. Hibberd and J. Onions (eds.) (1986) Poetry of the Great War Longman
S. Hynes (2000) A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture Bodley Head
John Keegan (1983) The Faces of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo and the Somme Penguin
Alun Kenwood (ed.) (1993) The Spanish Civil War: A Cultural and Historical Reader
Paula M. Krebs (1999) Gender, Race and the Writing of Europe: Public Discourse and the Boer War Cambridge University Press
A. D. Lambert (1990) The Crimean War: British Grand Strategy Aganst Russia, 1853-56 Manchester University Press
Martin Middlebrook (1984) The First Day on the Somme Penguin
John Miller (ed.) (1986) Voices Against Tyranny: Writings of the Spanish Civil War
R. Palmer (1990) 'What a Lovely War': British Soldiers' Songs From the Boer War to the Present Day Michael Joseph
John Peck (1998) War, The Army and Victorian Literature
Janet Perez and Wendell Aycock (eds.) (1990) The Spanish Civil War in Literature
Anne Powell (ed.) (1996) Fierce Light: The Battle of the Somme July-November 1916
Mark Rawlinson (2000) British Writing of the Second World War Oxford University Press


This module is at CQFW Level 6