Skip to main content Skip to navigation

EN933 Literatures of War

While the literary representation of war is as old as Homer, modern war - with its civilian armies, mechanised conflict, and the unimaginable scale of death and destruction - has occasioned a disconcertingly rich body of literary works. The aim of this module is to offer MA students a chance to read across this writing, from the Napoleonic period to the present. By attending to the major traditions of war writing (from the historical war novel to the survivor narrative), the module seeks to examine critically the political, ethical and philosophical problems inherent in representing violence and death in war. A number of related themes will also be explored, namely the representation of gender in war and the relationship between literature and national identity. To offer adequate scope for addressing these questions, texts will be drawn from a number of national literatures (such as British romantic poetry, American realism, postcolonial writing on conflict) and genres (novel, poetry, play, memoir). There will also be selected theoretical and critical readings on the subject of war and its representation. More generally, by focussing students' attention on this kind of writing, primarily though seminar discussion and written assignments, the module aims to expand their knowledge of literary discourse and to sharpen their skills in analysing texts.

Topics and Texts are as follows:-

1. Introduction to the Literature of War

Homer, Iliad

2. Romantic war
S.T.Coleridge, ‘Fears in Solitude’ (1798); Wordsworth, ‘Sonnets Dedicated to Liberty’ (1807), especially ‘I griev'd for Buonaparte’, ‘To the Men of Kent’, ‘Another year!....’; Anna Letitia Barbauld, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven (1812); Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (1812-1818) - Canto III, stanzas 1-51.

3. History and nationhood - 1
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (1865-9)

4. History and nationhood - 2
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace (1865-9)

5. Violence and masculinity
Ernst Jünger, The Storm of Steel (1920)

6. Myth and Experience
David Jones, In Parenthesis (1937)
selections from The Oxford Book of War Poetry, ed. Jon Stallworthy (OUP, 1984)

7. Facts and facticity
John Hersey, Hiroshima (1947)
Masuji Ibuse, Black Rain (1965)

8. Holocaust and Memory
Art Spiegelman, Maus I and Maus II (1987, 1992)
Charlotte Delbo, Auschwitz and After (1997)

9. Resistance
Marguerite Duras, The War: A Memoir (1985)

10. Witness
Geoffrey Hill, Selected Poems (2006)