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- Poets such
as Wilfrid Owen (NAEL 2.2066–2074),
Siegfried Sassoon (NAEL 2.2054–2059),
Rupert Brooke (NAEL 2.2049–2050) and
Isaac Rosenberg (NAEL 2.2061–2065)
are grouped together as "war poets" in
many anthologies and critical studies. Other
than their common theme, war, and "the
pity of war," do they share enough characteristics
in terms of style, form, and perspective
to be considered a "school" or "movement" in
- In what ways
does the poetry of World War II (NAEL 2.
2525–2540) differ from that of World
War I (NAEL 2.2048–2084)? In each
case, does the war poetry introduce formal
innovations, or in other ways break from
the literary conventions of the time?
- In the nineteenth
century, the American poet Walt Whitman proclaimed "I
sing the body Electric." While some
have perceived technology as exciting, new,
and liberating, others have seen it as soul-destroying
or even potentially apocalyptic.
Which of these two perceptions has produced
the most exciting and innovative art?
was the dominant artistic genre in the years
following World War I. To what extent can
we see the impact of the war and its aftermath
in Modernist works such as The Waste Land (NAEL
- For W.
H. L. Watson, the first tanks "were
colored with the romance that had long
ago departed from war." Later observers
have been more inclined to see the rise
of military technology as having put an
end to the romance of war.
- What accounts for Watson's association of the tank with "romance"?
To what extent does Keith Douglas share aspects
of this perspective?
- Can you think of examples from contemporary culture in which the latest
military technology is associated with romance?
- Hardy's "Channel
Firing" (NAEL 2.1944–1945) was
written a few months before World War I broke
- What effect is produced by the juxtaposition of the "great guns" firing
offshore with mentions of Camelot and Stonehenge?
- Does Hardy's response to military technology prefigure that of
the War Poets, or does his poem belong to an older tradition?
- Poems of
World War I and II, such as Ivor Gurney's "Towards
Lillers" and Henry Reed's "Naming
of Parts" (NAEL 2.2529–2531)
juxtapose descriptions of airplanes and guns
with observations of nature and the seasons.
- Do these poets regard technologized warfare as opposed to natural rhythms,
or do they suggest a deeper harmony?
- In each poem, what is the significance of the season of the year to
the poet's thoughts about technology and war?
- Compare Richard
Hillary's quest for "amusement,
fear, and exaltation" as a fighter
pilot in World War II with Yeats's
poem on a pilot in the World War I, "An
Irish Airman Foresees His Death."
What do their visions of the air war have
in common? How has the romance attached
to the fighter pilot changed between the
- David Jones's In
Parenthesis (NAEL 2.2079–2084)
is patterned on the sixth-century Welsh
Gododdin, Wilfred Owen's "Dulce
et Decorum Est" (NAEL 2.2069–2070)
responds to a line by the Roman poet
Horace, and Keith Douglas's "Aristocrats" (NAEL
2.2537–2538) closes with a reference
to the medieval French epic The
Song of Roland.
- How do each of these poets suggest the continuity or discontinuity
between these ancient models of warfare and heroism and the wars of the
twentieth century? To what extent has military technology altered the
nature and meaning of warfare?
- Comparing one of these poems to its source text, how does the twentieth-century
poet respond to the older poem as a model of "war poetry"?
- W. H. Auden's "Spain
1937" (NAEL 2.2502) is written in support
of the side of the left in the Spanish Civil
War. "The Shield of Achilles" (NAEL
2.2511–2512), written fifteen years
later, is far from supporting any side in
- How do these poems reflect on the gulf separating past and present
modes of warfare?
- How have Auden's thoughts about war altered between these two poems,
and what might account for this?
- The mushroom
cloud that rose over Hiroshima in 1945 became
a defining image of the World War II and,
in a wider sense, of the technological terrors
of the twentieth century.
- How did the crew of the Enola Gay respond to
this sight? In particular, how did they use metaphors and figurative
language in their attempt to comprehend this radically unfamiliar sight?
- To what extent has the mushroom cloud itself become a metaphor for
a range of ideas and anxieties? What, on an immediate and emotional level,
does the image signify to you?