Dr Santanu Das gives an introduction to the poetry of the First World War, providing fascinating commentary on a range of topics, supported by literary manuscripts and historical footage. How do we define the genre of First World War poetry and what makes it unique? Why is war poetry so powerful and so effective at describing traumatic experiences? What are the limits of language -- can the experiences of war ever properly be communicated? Why do we still read the poetry of the First World War and how has this enduring legacy affected our overall understanding of World War One?
How did the literature of World War I express the horrors of war? How did it react against those horrors? Join this distinguished group of writers and critics as they consider the legacy of canonical writers, highlight recently re-discovered classics about the war, and explore the influence of WWI literature on writers working today.
Dulce et Decorum est Pro patria mori. Whether schooled in the classics or not, this is the one line of Latin that most of us can probably recall from our school days and our introduction to war poetry through Wilfred Owen’s visceral and haunting lyrics. Next to Owen we may have been asked to compare Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, as jingoistic and sentimental as Owen’s lines are tormented and disillusioned.
Arguably the greatest anti-war poem to date, "Dulce Et Decorum Est" was composed near the end of the First World War by a poet who had actually experienced the horrors of the trenches. Owen gives us the reality behind the wartime recruiting phrase, "It is sweet and fitting to die for your country", as he recounts a friend's death during a gas attack. It contains, for me, some of the most powerful moments in poetry: "If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood / Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs."