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‘When there are so many we shall have to mourn’: Poetry and Memory in the Second World War

Owen, Sebastian (2015) ‘When there are so many we shall have to mourn’: Poetry and Memory in the Second World War. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

In this thesis, I consider the representation of memory and mourning in the work of a number of poets, written during, or in the years immediately before and after, the Second World War. I consider the notion of memory in relation to the First World War and the early part of the twentieth century, observing the ways poets use existing literary models of mourning, remembrance and commemoration to write about the Second World War. My introduction presents the theoretical and conceptual foundations of the thesis. In Chapter 2, I examine the influence and impact of the work of Freud on Auden and H.D., arguing that mourning Freud’s death in their work is a way to write about the war. Likewise, Chapter 3 looks at the impact of an influential individual, examining the ‘Rilke craze’ of the late thirties and early forties in relation to the war poetry of Auden, Keith Douglas, Hamish Henderson, Sidney Keyes and Alun Lewis, showing how Rilke’s work opened up new possibilities for writing about death. Chapter 4 is dedicated to a study of Hamish Henderson’s long poem Elegies for the Dead in Cyrenaica and the multitude of voices and fragments which it draws upon. The final chapter considers ekphrastic poetry about war memorials, looking at works by Auden, Henderson, Douglas, Jarmain, Sassoon, and Lewis. I argue throughout that poets seek a precedent for the trauma and upheaval of the Second World War by turning or returning to the literature of other conflicts and ruptures in a multidirectional and palimpsestic attempt to make sense of the present and to represent it in poetry. The conclusion follows this idea into the post-war years and up to the present moment, by showing how the work of Keith Douglas has become a touchstone for more recent writers of conflict.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.675106
Depositing User: Mr Sebastian Owen
Date Deposited: 09 Dec 2015 16:11
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/11196

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