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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 generation and revolutionised the way we see the world. He explores the British experience on the western Front from 1914 to 1918, 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 contexts, both actual and literary, for writers who 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 influence our understanding and memory of war. Fussell also shares the stirring experience of his research at the Imperial War Museum's Department of Documents. Fussell includes a new Suggested Further Reading List.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195133318
ISBN-10: 0195133315
Format: Hardback
(217mm x 149mm x 26mm)
Pages: 384
Imprint: Oxford University Press Inc
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Publish Date: 1-Apr-2000
Country of Publication: United States

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » This book made a stir when it first came out in 1976. The author, a literary and social historian, looks at the impact of World War I on English and American literature. He moves from the enthusiasms of Rupert Brooke to the harsher realities of Sassoon and Graves, and goes on to show how notions and images of war have coloured common speech and imaginative writing down to the age of Amis and Heller. An interesting, though occasionally a maddening book. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » New inroads into an area of literary history partly probed by Bernard Bergonzi's Heroes' Twilight (1966). If you want an encyclopedic survey of WW I in the annals of English literature, you'll have to wait; Fussell (best known as an Augustan specialist) adopts a selective approach that deliberately leaves large areas in shadow. His chief focus is the experience of combat itself - the stinking hell of the trenches - as an event which necessitated a jolting transformation of past literary concerns and methods. The gap between patriotic expectation and bloody reality dealt the national consciousness a shock that is still being felt. The literary repercussions were muted and delayed by the fact that the major talents of the age either escaped first-hand combat or failed to survive it. Only lesser figures lived to record the obscenities they had undergone, and it took the post-WW II American novelists (Mailer, Heller, Pynchon) to consummate a tradition founded in the murderous absurdities of the Somme and Passchendaele. A promising thesis, pursued with much feeling, but the method is rather spotty. Fussell considers only Sassoon's George Sherston series and does so in terms of the "us-them" dichotomy of the combat situation and its mental residue. For David Jones there is "myth" (here, the ritualizing patterns which the mind tends to impose on all experience under unbearable stress); for Robert Graves, "theater" (self-conscious participation in "absurd costume drama"); for Wilfred Owen, the "homoerotic tradition." Curiously, Fussell's tracing of literary sources and influences often seems a jarring and schoolboyish trivialization of the material; his close readings frequently make heavy weather of rather glib points. His approach leaves out a great deal (e.g., the literature of pacifism; and it's a pity that he includes a few German authors but not Celine). Still, the subject is immensely important, and Fussell - best when examining the memoirs of half-anonymous survivors - opens up challenging lines of inquiry into what he calls, in Northrop Frye's words, a piece of "our own buried life." (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Paul Fussell

Paul Fussell holds the Donald T Regan Chair of English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. His other books include Wartime and Abroad.

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