mobi ´ doc The Great War and Modern Memory 9780195133325

doc ë The Great War and Modern Memory ✓ Paul Fussell

The year marks War and ePUB #8608 the th anniversary of one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War Fussell illuminates a war that changed a generation and revolutionised the way we see the world He explores the British experience on the western Front from to focusing on the various literary means by which it has been remembered conventionalized and mythologized It is also about the literary dimensions of the experience itself Fussell supplies contex Very enjoyable very thought provoking but not necessarily very convincing Fussell's sui generis book is an extended literary criticism masuerading as social history – or perhaps the other way round There are various arguments going on in here but the main thrust is that much of how we think about the modern world – indeed our whole contemporary mindset – has its origin in ideas that came about as an attempt to respond to the unprecedented scale and irony of the 1914 18 conflict‘Irony’ is the crucial term And a famously vague one; let me first like a teenager giving a graduation speech turn to the OED's third sense of the wordA state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what was or might be expected; an outcome cruelly humorously or strangely at odds with assumptions or expectationsFor Fussell ‘Every war constitutes an irony of situation because its means are so melodramatically disproportionate to its presumed ends’; and ‘the Great War was ironic than any before or since’ Highlighting the insanity of trench warfare and the ‘ridiculous proximity of the trenches to home’ Fussell first traces the various ways people responded to this grotesue irony and then considers how it has affected language culture and thought processes sinceThough he does look at some contemporary letters and diaries his main sources of evidence are the great literary responses to the war especially Sassoon Graves Blunden Owen and David Jones and he locates the source of all their techniues in ‘irony assisted recall’I love this attention to irony as the defining uality of the war; but it also epitomises a sense I had that Fussell was claiming a special status for the First World War that it didn't really possess After all irony is hardly new To me it seems to be a central part of war literature almost as far back as you can go Homeric irony is almost proverbialSimilarly it seems uite a claim to say that 1914 18 was unusually marked by a ‘sense of adversary proceedings’ an ‘us against them’ mentality since this is surely characteristic of the whole notion of what war is If anything the WWI literature I've read has been notable for its awareness that the other side was exactly the same as them; I think of the German and French soldiers trapped all night together in the shell hole in All uiet on the Western Front for instanceJust one example to make my point Fussell believes there is something unusually theatrical in the English conception of this warDuring the war it was the British rather than the French the Americans the Italians the Portuguese the Russians or the Germans who referred to trench raids as ‘shows’ or ‘stunts’ And it is English playwrights – or at least Anglo Irish ones – like Wilde and Shaw who compose plays proclaiming at every point that they are playsBut this is weird not just because of the ualification he needed in that last sentence but because when I think of deliberately artificial stagecraft I think of Brecht – a German – and the term used for this in modern theatre studies is a German one Verfremdungseffekt In general his idea of specifically national characteristics seems a bit strained he uses Manning's Her Privates We as an example of how English writers were saturated with Shakespeare; but Frederic Manning was an AustralianThere are several such uibbles I could adduce but none of them stopped me enjoying Fussell's arguments most of which are brilliantly constructed He is especially convincing on the pervasive influence of the Oxford Book of Verse on contemporary patterns of speech and thought and he has a fantastic ability to spot poetic echoes buried in the most unlikely places When CE Montague writes of one destroyed battalion ‘Seasons returned but not to that battalion returned the spirit of delight in which it had first learnt to soldier together’ perhaps it is not too difficult to discern the presence of Milton's ‘Thus with the year Seasons return but not to me returns Day or the sweet approach of Ev'n or Morn’ But Fussell also finds parallels to both Sassoon's ‘The Kiss’ and Owen's ‘Arms and the Boy’ in Bret Harte's ‘What the Bullet Sang’ – and there are other even obscure examplesAn American he seems fascinated by the extent to which the idea of ‘English Literature’ was a part of daily life for so many British soldiers and he gathers a great deal of evidence from letters and diaries showing how common this was among all ranksCarrington once felt ‘a studious fit’ and sent home for some Browning ‘At first’ he says ‘I was mocked in the dugout as a highbrow for reading “The Ring and the Book” but saying nothing I waited until one of the scoffers idly picked it up In ten minutes he was absorbed and in three days we were fighting for turns to read it and talking of nothing else at meals’Perhaps the most interesting chapter for me was the one about the homoeroticism of war writing which examines certain tropes in First World War literature and traces them back to the influence of Housman the Aesthetes and the Uranians with their veneration of wounded or dying soldier ‘lads’ forever stripping off and bathing in handy streams Here and elsewhere Fussell follows the variations forward in time as well to modern war literature where he sees Heller's Catch 22 and Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow as especially representative For him this style of heavily ironised conspiratorial writing has its roots in the Western Front ‘Prolonged trench warfare whether enacted or remembered fosters paranoid melodrama which I take to be a primary mode in modern writing’Well maybe I enjoyed seeing the argument made even if I'm not sure I believe itFussell himself fought in Europe the Second World War and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart; in a certain sense this book is personal and it has to do with exploring the gap between ideas of war and the reality The way he reacted to the fighting in Alsace was in some sense so at least he seems to be arguing pre moulded by society's experience of the Somme and Paschendaele And indeed like many other writers I've encountered recently Fussell notes that one can easily ‘conceive of the events running from 1914 to 1945 as another Thirty Years' War and the two world wars as virtually a single historical episode’

eBook The Great War and Modern Memory

The Great War and Modern MemoryCe our understanding and memory of war Fussell also shares the stirring experience of his research at the Imperial War Museum's Department of Great War and eBook #180 Documents Fussell includes a new Suggested Further Reading ListFussell's landmark study of World War I remains as original and gripping today as ever before a literate literary and illuminating account of the Great War the one that changed a generation ushered in the modern era and revolutionized how we see the world halftones A great book Using the tools of literary criticism to reflect on WW1 Fussell digs into how the war changed consciousness It was the war Fussell argues that makes the modern age an age of irony Traditional notions of the war virtues like honour valour and bravery disappeared into the shit and mud of the Western Front The cynicism towards authority and the official view portrayed in newspapers etc started in the war The troops could read The Times or The Daily Mail in the trenches two days after it was published They would read nothing of the great disasters of British arms such as The Battle of the SommeThere is so much to this book Page after page there are fascinating observations about how the imagination of this generation of Englishmen possibly THE most literate ie imbued with literary tastes shaped their reactions to the war A small point but one of many is that while the red poppy was indeed all over the battlefields so too was the blue cornflower But it was a peculiar English literary convention that settled upon the poppy as the symbolic flower of the war This flower of spring while it symbolised life was also short lived The red suggested the blood of life and the blood of violent young death There are other overtones to the poppy that perhaps the official remembrance committees would like to overlook Fussell analysis goes to places that are no doubt uncomfortable for the Colonel Blimp's of this world such as a certain homo eroticism evident in much of the poetry and prose that came out of the war Words and the shape they give to our memories and imaginations individually and collectively affect even the most visceral of experiences like modern warfare I did not understand this so fully until I read this book

Paul Fussell ✓ The Great War and Modern Memory kindle

mobi ´ doc The Great War and Modern Memory 9780195133325 Ä [PDF] ✐ The Great War and Modern Memory By Paul Fussell – The year 2000 marks the 25th anniversary of one of the most original and gripping volumes ever written about the First World War Fussell illuminates a war that changed a generatiTs both actual and literary for writers The Great Epubwho have most effectively memorialized the Great War as an historical experience with conspicuous imaginative and artistic meaning These writers include the classic memoirists Siegfried Sassoon Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden and poets David Jones Isaac Rosenberg and Wilfred Owen In his new introduction Fussell discusses the critical responses to his work the authors and works that inspired his own writing and the elements which influen This masterful book published in 1975 provides a rewarding set of explorations in the way our experience of the war has been captured by literature and thereby filtered into our collective memory and understanding of it Fussell focuses almost exclusively on the British experience at the Western Front which includes out of the 500 miles of the continuous line from the Belgian coast to Switzerland the trenches of the Somme region of Picardy and of the Yrpes salient in Flanders His thesis is that the uniue ualities of the war in its senseless slaughter severely challenged the ability of any narrative to capture its horrors but that the work of fiction memoir and poetry by certain notable participants forged some lasting truths that conform to an ironic turn in the literary enterprise This in turn paved the way for the reactions after the war in the Modernist masterpieces of irony by non participants with better writing talent eg Joyce Woolf Pound Eliot and later for a unfettered vision of its absurdity and obscenity in postmodernist works like Heller’s “Catch 22” and Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow” despite their ostensible settings of World War 2 The long stalemate in trench warfare and its unprecedented levels of casualties due to automatic weapons and intensive artillery barrages contribute to the unusual ualities of this war so difficult to convey in its reality There was such a yawning gap between what was expected of the ill prepared men and what they could achieve between the platitudes and euphemisms of the officers and the press and the reality in the field So many deaths with no territory gained did not jive with any propaganda gloss of honorable sacrifice Life in the trenches with its mud lice rats and stench of excrement and decaying bodies long periods of bombardment and hopeless raids against machine guns and gas attacks was a hell beyond reach of metaphors one might use to boost objective description All but the most peasant level of soldiers were surprisingly steeped in classical literature and Victorian romantic and pastoral traditions Most tropes for expressing meaning in existence worked only by way of contrast with life before the war or even the relatively short distances from the front As in all wars your “mate” was your one core pathway to expressing a capacity to be human and such bonds acuired an spiritual uality in the collective records and writings of this time with the homoerotic elements submerged or sublimated As for God either he was on a strike or out to lunch Many in letters home reach for references to Bunyan’s passage through a dangerous wasteland in “Pilgrim’s Progress” or the biblical “Valley of the Shadow of Death” The troglodyte life below ground and constant watch on the blasted landscape of no man’s land before them engendered a special relationship with the sky above as about their only connection to the natural world The daily cycles of work between daytime post in the forward “firing” trenches sleep and feeding time in “support” and “reserve” trenches a couple hundred yards behind and intense work on refortification and body removals under cover of darkness rendered a ritual purpose to a Sisyphean existence The “stand to” group sessions at dawn and dusk was an especially significant turning point for anointing the isolated individuals with a sense of shared fate and enlightenment over calls for active attacks or defense For many the unreality of their role in the war felt just like the pretense behind acting in a play the three acts naturally fell to training in the first act time at the front for the second and return home the hoped for third actThe geography of the situation forever changed English language usage Almost daily one can feels echoes of the war in the common usage of “no man’s land” “over the top” and “entrenched” When TS Eliot in the 20s used “The Waste Land” in his poem you can presume the connection despite no explicit reference to the war beyond bodies fertilizing fields Because of constraints on the press the true status of the war was obscured from the public behind euphemisms If a journalist described fighting as “sharp” or “brisk” that kind of adjective tended to refer to an outcome of casualties around 50% Everyone reached to make some kind of story out of a life so obviously just a cog in a nihilistic universe Inevitably irony and dark humor was the only mode of expression that could come close to capturing the reality and render a means to put it into place Here a common soldier fights back with such a pose One’s revulsion to the ghastly horrors of war was submerged in the belief that this war was to end all wars and Utopia would arise What an illusion”In the hands of serious writers after the reality of this war those who attempted to apply a romantic or pastoral cast to life at the front are trumped by the ones that succeeded with modes of irony and farce Fussell details how it is that David Jones’ epic poem about his war experience “In Parenthesis” applied allusions to Arthurian myths and other old narratives but failed to elevate this conflict to the standard heroic scenarios for plucky but reserved Brits at war With Kipling’s history of the Irish brigade his son fought and died with Fussell makes us see how inappropriate his crafted rhetoric is with its prose rhythms alliteration and imposed causalities which leaves us to wonder Is there any way of compromising with the reader’s expectations that written history ought to be interesting meaningful and the cruel fact that much of what happens—all of what happens—is inherently without “meaning”By contrast he finds Sassoon’s poetry and autobiographical trilogy “Sherston’s Progress” makes a better frame to capture the paradoxical truths of human experience of the war consistent with him being both an heroic combat leader and eventually a conscientious war objector In setting down so well his transitions from self centered fox hunter to a band of brother warriors and as a conseuence of visits or medical recovery to England to a voice of resistance to the waste and advocate of a negotiated peace Big ironies for him was how his lucid sanity about the war got him treated at a psychiatric hospital and how the old nobility of loyalty to your men was what led him to choose to return to the front Despite the appearance of a memoir with names changed the work leaves out that Sassoon was gay and that he was intensely active in writing and publishing poetry in this period and neglects the personal impact of his friendship with and mentorshiop of fellow poet Willfred Owen at the hospitalSassoon’s friend Robert Graves also wins high marks from Fussell for successfully capturing the miserable state of the British soldier and military society in his “Good bye to All That” Though called a memoir he later admitted that many elements were fictional additions to give the general reader what they wanted and to boost sales including assurance that the most painful chapters were “the most jokiest” Despite all the fictional elements Fussell finds it a great record of truth and noble in its application of farce as an antidote to war Its brilliance and compelling energy reside in its structural invention and in its perpetual resourcefulness in imposing the patterns of farce and comedy onto the blank horrors or meaningless vacancies of experience If it really were a documentary transcription of the actual it would be worth very little and would surely not be as it is infinitely re readable It is valuable just because it is not true in that wayA poet we remember Aristotle saying is one who mastered the art of telling lies successfully that is dramatically interestingly And what is a Graves A Graves is a tongue in cheek neurasthenic farceur whose material is “fact” Graves is a joker a manic illusionist Being a “Graves” is a way of being scandalously “Celtish” It is a way—perhaps the only way left—of rebelling against the positivistic pretensions of non Celts and satirizing the preposterous scientism of the twentieth century His enemies are always the same solemnity certainty complacency pomposity cruelty And it was the Great War that brought them to his attentionThe third “memoir” that Fussell delves deeply into is Edmund Blunden’s “Undertones of War” My past readings have made me very aware of Sassoon and Graves but I had not heard of this well revered British poet and essayist He was a shepherd’s son who advanced the pastoral traditions of literature so prominent in the 19th century; he later wrote the monumental “Nature in English Literature” What we get in his writing on his battalion at the front are innumerable perversions of the pastoral and a vision of an overall travesty of nature Bullets whiz like insects and skulls underfoot seem like mushrooms But overall the effect is to pit spoiled nature and lost innocence as a counter to war and to hold the unnecessary suffering and cruelty up to shame us all He finds his approach one of admirable literary bravery In a world where literary uality of Blunden’s sort is conspicuously an antiue every word of Undertones of War every rhythm allusion and droll personification can be recognized as an assault on the war and on the world which chose to conduct and continue it It suggests what the modern world would look like to a sensibility that was genuinely civilizedIsaac Rosenberg is another author of focus here that I was unfamiliar with Fussell greatly admires how he walks the line between valuing the honor and bravery of the men with classical illusions while keeping their humbling misery constantly in view by means of subtle ironies For example in “Break of Day in the Trenches” a soldier touches rat while reaching to pluck a poppy and put it behind his ear The sense of identity with this fellow denizen of the earth morphs into a form of envy as he imagines the freedom of the rat to visit the German lines there where he might read comparable expressions of horror in their faces He recognizes the poppy as both a symbol of death and taking it as a temporary hold on life Poppies whose roots are in man’s veinsDrop and are ever dropping; But mine in my ear is safeJust a little white with the dustThe most popular poem from the war and read at many a memorial to this day is McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” Its dose of artful sentimentality always puts a lump in my throat similar to hearing the songs “Waltzing Mathilde” or “No Man’s Land” Fussell finds it a bit funny for a flower associated with forgetfulness due to its opium to become one of remembrance Yet he admires the power of the poem’s use of ghostly speech from the grave despite its being a hackneyed device We are the Dead Short days agoWe lived felt dawn saw sunset glowLoved and were loved and now we lieIn Flanders fieldsBut for him it is forever ruined by ending with a propaganda argument against a negotiated peace Take up our uarrel with the foeTo you from failing hands we throwThe torch; be yours to hold it highA surprise in Fussell’s account is how often he reaches for writings from or about other wars to fulfill the completeness of the message of what we inherit from the human experience of the Western Front Time and again he pulls uotes from “Gravity’s Rainbow” for that purpose For example here is a mocking of the honor of the commanders of the war The presence of Brigadier Pudding in the novel proposes the Great War as the ultimate origin of the insane contemporary scene Pudding’s “greatest triumph on the battlefield” we are told “came in 1917 in the gassy Armageddonite filth of the Ypres salient where he conuered a bight of no man’s land some 40 yards at its deepest with a wastage of only 70% of his unit”On the special kind of man love that grew in the trenches the men themselves had Housman’s “Shropshire Lad” in their minds for epitomizing the nobility of such bonds the very word “lad” so potent “for a beautiful brave doomed boy” If truth in hearts that perishCould move the powers on highI think the love I bear youShould make you not to dieBut Fussell hands it to Pynchon provide the last word as an aside directly to the reader about the historical loss of this type of love It wasn’t always so In the trenches of the First World War English men came to love one another decently without shame or make believe under the easy likelihood of their sudden deaths and to find in the faces of other young men evidence of otherworldly visits some poor hope that may have helped redeem even mud shit the decaying pieces of human meat While Europe died meanly in its own wastes men lovedThe British lost about a million people in the war The pointlessness of such loss is so hard to digest and take in stride even to this time 100 years later Literature does its best in an ongoing process Fussell does a great job tying up his themes at the end making freuent reference to Frye’s theories of cycles in literary form The past is always present in his way of thinking The culture of the past is not only the memory of mankind but our own buried life