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Civilian Poets and Poetry of the Crimean Conflict: The War at Home

Ho, Tai-Chun (2015) Civilian Poets and Poetry of the Crimean Conflict: The War at Home. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Cast in the shadow of the soldier-poets of the First World War, the Civilian poets of the Crimean War (1854-56) have long been dismissed as ill-informed patriots. Challenging this long-standing assumption, this thesis argues that Crimean War poetry constitutes a distinctive category of war poetry which should be studied in its own right, and that reading a civilian’s war poem requires a careful consideration of the poet’s engagement with the epistemological, ethical and formal implications of dealing with war and suffering at several removes. For mid-nineteenth-century critics and poets the distant war in the Crimea was not only a media war but also a literary one, during which they drew on established traditions and forms to negotiate with revised conceptions of the role and genre of war poetry. These conceptions were in turn being constantly updated and contested by modern forms of reportage, particularly telegraphic dispatches and photographs. This thesis considers the artistic endeavours of a wide range of civilian poets including Alfred Lord Tennyson, his friend Franklin Lushington, the ‘Spasmodic’ Sydney Dobell, the working-class Chartist Gerald Massey, the Punch contributor Tom Taylor, the satirist Robert Brough and anonymous poets whose works appeared in newspapers, journals and magazines at the time. In doing so, it seeks to provide fresh, historically nuanced readings of the cultural impact and legacy of their poetic output. This thesis also argues for a differentiation between early and late poetic responses. Burdened with their knowledge of the suffering caused by their government’s mismanagement of the war, civilian poets from January 1855, set out to challenge established conventions of war poetry and experiment with sophisticated poetic forms other than the lyric. They drew on a range of formal resources, including the sonnet, satires and dramatic monologue to write new kinds of documentary, questioning, or even satirical war poetry. As such, their poetic responses were not intended to arouse readers’ patriotic sentiment and to advocate the government’s military campaign as did traditional patriotic poetry, but to perform a wide variety of political critiques- to challenge the political elite’s prosecution of the war and the dominant class system; to commemorate the bodily pain of the wounded; to give voice to the emotional suffering of civilians remaining at home during the war; to ease the public’s anxiety about the welfare of soldiers’ families, and to explore the trauma of war.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: The Crimean War, Civilian Poets, Literary War, Distant Suffering, and Poetic Forms.
Academic Units: The University of York > English and Related Literature (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.644979
Depositing User: Mr. Tai-Chun Ho
Date Deposited: 28 Apr 2015 15:23
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:20
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/8730

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