The Poetry of the Great War - Pastoral Traditions and Modern Mourning
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In this dissertation I am investigating the literary responses to the multitudes of dead soldiers – mass-idustrialised deaths – during the Great War. I argue that trench poets, such as Wilfred Owen and Isaac Rosenberg, resisted the consolatory tropes and conventions of the traditional pastoral elegy and instead they produced poetry which can be described as anti-pastoral and anti-elegiac. Further, these responses to mourning leads to what Freud would describe as a state of melancholia and because the poet actively denies the mourning subject a way of healing – the purpose of these anti-elegies is not consolation but to keep the wound open. The poetry of mourning moved from consolatory to anti-consolatory during the years of the First World War. The last part of this dissertation is about the Welshman David Jones and his literary response to his wartime experiences, In Parenthesis, from 1937. David Jones restores some of the traditional conventions of the elegy and as a result he has produced a work of mourning which cannot be described as merely anti-consolatory or anti-pastoral. For example, Jones provide some pastoral tropes which might help both the mourning subject and the reader to avoid a permanent state of melancholia and to become what Freud would describe as a successful mourner.