ENGL 271/3.0 - Issues and Themes: Special Topics I: Writing the First World War
Instructor: Dr. Peter Lowe
This course draws upon poetry, autobiography, and fiction written by those who served in the First World War to explore the ways in which combat experience is processed and becomes the material for a literary text. Looking closely at the stylistic and formal properties of each work, students will be encouraged to think about the methods by which the author strives to render real and credible experiences that are, in many ways, far beyond the imagination of anyone who has not witnessed or participated in such things directly. What decisions are taken in terms of the graphic and unsettling subject matter, or the ‘coarseness’ of the language used?
We will also discuss the motives that prompt the combatant to write about his experiences, and the desired outcomes that are, perhaps, woven into the texts themselves. By looking at a range of texts alongside film, photography, and the visual arts of the period we will consider whether the distinction between ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ is one that can be rigidly maintained when the material is as psychologically and culturally unsettling as the experience of being a combatant in the First World War proved to be for so many people.