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  1. War has often been described in metaphors drawn from games, and during World War I British troops sometimes even kicked a ball to the opposing side as they launched an attack. But for many World War I soldiers, these metaphors seemed to distort the futility, anonymity, and mass death of modern combat. Compare the view of war as sporting event in Henry Newbolt’s “Vitaï Lampada,” Jessie Pope’s “The Call,” and the recruiting poster “The Army Isn’t All Work” with the skeptical critique of such representations in Wilfred Owen’s poem “Disabled” (NAEL 8, 2.1977).
  2. Recruiting posters represented the war as public duty and patriotic defense, as does a poem such as Jessie Pope’s “The Call.” But compare Pope’s poem and World War I recruiting posters with Wilfred Owen’s poems “Dulce Et Decorum Est” (NAEL 8, 2.1974), which addresses Pope toward its end, and “Disabled” (NAEL 8, 2. 1977), which echoes in its last lines a 1914 recruiting poster that asked, “Will they never come?”
  3. In his preface to The Oxford Book of Modern Verse and in his poem “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death,” Yeats represents war as potentially heroic and ennobling. Contrast this view of war with depictions of the war’s fruitless waste and suffering in Siegfried Sassoon’s “A Soldier’s Declaration” and Wilfred Owen’s “S.I.W.” (NAEL 8, 2.1976). How do you explain these differences?
  4. The Great War offered many new job opportunities for women that had long been denied them. According to Jessie Pope’s poem “War Girls” and the recruiting poster “We Need You, Redcross,” what forms of empowerment does the war afford women? Contrast the role women play in these works with the association of women with the defended nation in the poster “Women of Britain say—GO!” and Siegfried Sassoon’s “Glory of Women” (NAEL 8, 2.1962).
  5. Artists, photographers, and writers attempted to convey the horror of trench warfare. Compare the trenches as seen in this topic’s paintings and photographs. What are the advantages and limitations of each medium? Compare, in turn, these visual representations of the trenches with a poem, such as Rosenberg’s “Break of Day in the Trenches” (NAEL 8, 2.1967), Sassoon’s “The Rear-Guard” (NAEL 8, 2.1961), or Owen’s “Strange Meeting” (NAEL 8, 2.1975–76). What can the written work convey that the visual representation cannot, and vice-versa?
  6. “Modernism” is the term many scholars now give to the artistic movement dominant from just before World War I to the outbreak of World War II.

    1. Compare the pre-war Imagist poems of H. D., T. E. Hulme, and Ezra Pound to the war poetry of Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, and Siegfried Sassoon. What differences do you notice in form and content? How would you explain these differences?
    2. To what extent can we see the impact of the war and its aftermath in modernist works such as T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, especially sections I and III, or Ezra Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, in particular parts IV and V?
  7. The war as seen on the “home front” and on the battlefront was quite different. What contrasts can you find between how the war is represented by soldiers and by civilians? Concentrate on one or two of the soldiers in the NAEL section “Voices from World War I,” such as Owen, Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, Robert Graves, and David Jones, and one or two of the civilians who wrote about the war, such as May Wedderburn Cannan, Pope, Charlotte Mew, Yeats, or Pound. How might you also complicate these distinctions?
  8. Once the scale of the Great War’s casualties became clear, many writers sought to assign blame for the tremendous loss of life. They attributed responsibility for the war to politicians, religious authorities, fathers, women, and a bankrupt civilization. Examine who is blamed for the war and why, in various works, including Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Sassoon’s “‘They’” (NAEL 8, 2.1960) and “Glory of Women” (NAEL 8, 2.1962), and Owen’s “Dulce Et Decorum Est” (NAEL 8, 2.1974) and “S.I.W.” (NAEL 8, 2.1976). How do these works attack, ironize, question, or taunt the people and institutions seen as guilty for the war?
  9. Public memorials and national monuments serve as focal points of public mourning, and often create controversy both because of what they represent and what they omit. The Whitehall Cenotaph in London was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens in 1919 as a simple, temporary structure, but when public demand proved overwhelming, it was recast in Portland marble and made permanent in 1920. “Cenotaph” means “empty tomb,” and Remembrance Day in England is still celebrated around the Whitehall Cenotaph. Over time, this official monument has come to symbolize all those who died during the war, not just those whose bodies were never identified.

    1. Read Charlotte Mew’s poem “Cenotaph” and Henry Morton’s journalistic account. In what ways do these two texts differ in their attempts to represent the memorial and to interpret its significance? 
    2. Like literary texts, public monuments provide meaning for events, and they create cultural memories that may or may not be accurate historical representations. Compare the illustrations of the cenotaph with the pictures of the Menin Gate, which is located near the cemeteries for the Battle of Passchendaele and bears the names of over 54,000 British soldiers killed in trenches nearby. What does each monument represent and how does it do so? Also compare Sassoon’s poem “On Passing the New Menin Gate” (NAEL 8, 2.1963). What differences do you see between the memories created by the Menin Gate, the cenotaph, and Sassoon’s poem?
  10. Women writers represented the war in ways that were sometimes jingoistic and patriotic, sometimes conflicted and discordant.

    1. Reread the last six lines of Charlotte Mew’s “Cenotaph” and consider how Mew’s poem ends with a series of discordant images. Describe the poem’s tone and its effect on Mew’s representation of the cenotaph. Contrast Mew’s poem with Pope’s “The Call.”
    2. How and why are women blamed for the war in poems such as Pound’s Hugh Selwyn Mauberley and Sassoon’s “Glory of Women” (NAEL 8, 2.1962)?

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