As its origin in ideas that came about as an attempt to respond to the unprecedented scale and irony of the 1914 18 conflict Irony is the crucial term And a famously vague one let me first like a teenager giving a graduation speech turn to the OED s third sense of the wordA state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what was or might be expected an outcome cruelly humorously or strangely at odds with assumptions or expectationsFor Fussell Every war constitutes an irony of situation because its means are so melodramatically disproportionate to its presumed ends and the Great War was ironic than any before or since Highlighting the insanity of trench warfare and the ridiculous proximity of the trenches to home Fussell first traces the various ways people responded to this grotesue irony and then considers how it has affected language culture and thought processes sinceThough he does look at some contemporary letters and diaries his main sources of evidence are the great literary responses to the war especially Sassoon Graves Blunden Owen and David Jones and he locates the source of all their techniues in irony assisted recall I love this attention to irony as the defining uality of the war but it also epitomises a sense I had that Fussell was claiming a special status for the First World War that it didn t really possess After all irony is hardly new To me it seems to be a central part of war literature almost as far back as you can go Homeric irony is almost proverbialSimilarly it seems uite a claim to say that 1914 18 was unusually marked by a sense of adversary proceedings an us against them mentality since this is surely characteristic of the whole notion of what war is If anything the WWI literature I ve read has been notable for its awareness that the other side was exactly the same as them I think of the German and French soldiers trapped all night together in the shell hole in All uiet on the Western Front for instanceJust one example to make my point Fussell believes there is something unusually theatrical in the English conception of this warDuring the war it was the British rather than the French the Americans the Italians the Portuguese the Russians or the Germans who referred to trench raids as shows or stunts And it is English playwrights or at least Anglo Irish ones like Wilde and Shaw who compose plays proclaiming at every point that they are playsBut this is weird not just because of the ualification he needed in that last sentence but because when I think of deliberately artificial stagecraft I think of Brecht a German and the term used for this in modern theatre studies is a German one Verfremdungseffekt In general his idea of specifically national characteristics seems a bit strained he uses Manning s Her Privates We as an example of how English writers were saturated with Shakespeare but Frederic Manning was an AustralianThere are several such uibbles I could adduce but none of them stopped me enjoying Fussell s arguments most of which are brilliantly constructed He is especially convincing on the pervasive influence of the Oxford Book of Verse on contemporary patterns of speech and thought and he has a fantastic ability to spot poetic echoes buried in the most unlikely places When CE Montague writes of one destroyed battalion Seasons returned but not to that battalion returned the spirit of delight in which it had first learnt to soldier together perhaps it is not too difficult to discern the presence of Milton s Thus with the year Seasons return but not to me returns Day or the sweet approach of Ev n or Morn But Fussell also finds parallels to both Sassoon s The Kiss and Owen s Arms and the Boy in Bret Harte s What the Bullet Sang and there are other even obscure examplesAn American he seems fascinated by the extent to which the idea of English Literature was a part of daily life for so many British soldiers and he gathers a great deal of evidence from letters and diaries showing how
Common This Was Among All this was among all once felt a studious fit and sent home for some Browning At first he says I was mocked in the dugout as a highbrow for reading The Ring and the Book but saying nothing I waited until one of the scoffers idly picked it up In ten minutes he was absorbed and in three days we were fighting for turns to read it and talking of nothing else at meals Perhaps the most interesting chapter for me was the one about the homoeroticism of war writing which examines certain tropes in First World War literature
and traces them back to the influence of Housman the Aesthetes and traces them back to the influence of Housman the Aesthetes and Uranians with their veneration of wounded or dying soldier lads forever stripping off and bathing in handy streams Here and elsewhere Fussell follows the variations forward in time as well to modern war literature where he sees Heller s Catch 22 and Pynchon s Gravity s Rainbow as especially representative For him this style of heavily ironised conspiratorial writing has its roots in the Western Front Prolonged trench warfare whether enacted or remembered fosters paranoid melodrama which I take to be a primary mode in modern writing Well maybe I enjoyed seeing the argument made even if I m not sure I believe itFussell himself fought in Europe the Second World War and was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart in a certain sense this book is personal and it has to do with exploring the gap between ideas of war and the reality The way he reacted to the fighting in Alsace was in some sense so at least he seems to be arguing pre moulded by society s experience of the Somme and Paschendaele And indeed like many other writers I ve encountered recently Fussell notes that one can easily conceive of the events running from 1914 to 1945 as another Thirty Years War and the two world wars as virtually a single historical episode I rarely read non fiction but this just took my
breath away It s both a wonderful and achingly sad introduction to the poets and writers who emerged or didn away It s both a wonderful and achingly sad introduction to the poets and writers who emerged or didn from World War I as well as an eye opening description of how that conflict shaped modern life Read for a history course at Southwest Texas State in the 1980s It was a before and after book Before the Great War was retronymed World War One in my database after it was not That by itself was a huge reorientation of my thinkingA friend called this read to mind today and I got to thinking about historiography and its pleasures the mental laziness of accepting the nonce words bandied about instead of seeking out the contemporaneous views and languageArmistice Day instead of Veterans Day for examplePaul Fussell s work was always linguistically exact and intellectually exacting It was all the formative for me because of that I don t guess too many people will thunder out to grab copies of this sizable and dense tome I call it a pity The exercise for the brain would make it well worth the spondulix When Bill aka uo recommended this to me a couple of weeks ago I really didn t think I would get to it anytime soon I also decided that it would be a military book or sorts dealing perhaps with how what is remembered of a war isn t necessarily what actually happened If that had been what it was about it would have been an interesting enough book but this proved much better than I could have anticipatedThis book looks at how various mostly British writers wrote ab. Ch 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 ListFussell's landmark study of World War I remains as original and gripping today as ever before a literate literary and illuminating account of the Great War the one that changed a generation ushered in the modern era and revolutionized how we see the world 14 halftone. .
Extraordinary One of the best books I ve read on WWI By employing literary critiue Fussell manages to capture virtually every aspect of the war from its mammoth obscenity to its myriad tin Note I ve read this book twice the first time years ago I set the read date as today so it updates on the Facebook wall properlyIn this landmark text from 1975 Fussell an American scholar and veteran looks at a selection of writings from certain soldier authors on the Western Front and examines the implications of same when it comes to how the war should best be understood It s difficult to express how influential this book has been or how widely it has been hailed since its publication it won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award and is on the list of the Modern Library s one hundred best important non fiction books of the twentieth century It has never been out of print and comes in three distinct editions the original 1975 volume from the Oxford University Press the 2000 follow up to same a 25th Anniversary edition that boasted a new afterword from the author and the most recent a lavish new illustrated edition from Sterling released in 2012 on the occasion of the author s death It is greatly expanded with full colour plates throughout and the layout though not the content has been substantially revisedI repeat that it s an extraordinarily influential work and has had a citation history since its publication that could almost be described as Total that is it was very hard for a very long time to find a book on the war that did not include some nod to Fussell and his ideas It also led to a trend in naming books about the war with a similar convention see Stefan Goebel s The Great War and Medieval Memory 2007 or Jason Crouthamel s The Great War and German Memory 2009 for but two examples there are many but I guess I can t really complain about thatIn any event it s a big deal so why am I upsetFussell has faced a steady stream of criticism from historians of the war he is primarily a literary scholar as am I but even than that has characterized himself first as a pissed off infantryman for his over reliance on an archly editorial tone and a tendency to indulge in errors of fact when it makes for a good narrative There s a now famous critiue of the book by the military historians Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson that first appeared in War in History 11 1994 in which the two compare it to his later similar work on WWII Wartime Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War 1989 The second book is another story but when it comes to the first they are critical of what they see as Fussell s hostility to anything resembling official history and of his reliance upon utterly subjective literary engagements to tell the real truth This anyway is one of the famous critiues there are certainly othersFor his own part Fussell has responded to his cri When war broke out the undergraduate Robert Graves pictured what service he might render as garrison duty literally holding down the fort while the professional Regular Army charged to glory on the continent The 100000 strong force of British Regulars ferried across the channel in August 1914 to protect Belgium and assist the French was all used up by early November It is said the high command and the staff officers survived the old army was beyond recall This isn t war cried an appalled Lord Kitchener when he learned of the casualties consumed in the first collisions of those ignorant and hopeful armies coming on with storybook airs and futuristic firepower To me the early clashes of autumn 1914 make one of the fascinating episodes of the Great War A voice from within the whirlwind This is a terrible war and I don t suspect there is an idle British soldier in France I wonder where it will end one hears so much There has been fighting and loss of life crowded into seven weeks than there was in the whole of South Africa It is awful what the Brigade of Guards have lost and being like one big regiment one nows everyone and feels Brigade of Guards have lost and being like one big regiment one Problem Solving in Data Structures Algorithms Using C++ knows everyone and feels all the The last two days have been ghastly The Germans broke through the line We have lost ten officers in the last two days and yesterday the battalion was less than 200 men though I expect some stragglers will turn up All the officers in my company were lost except myself We have had no rest at all Everyone is very shaken The soldier writing his mother thus in September 1914 was twenty one year old 2nd Lt Neville Leslie Woodroffe 1st Battalion Irish Guards the regiment in which Rudyard Kipling lost two sons and whose official history he wrote At First Ypres on 6 November Woodroffe and the remnants of his company were all shot down counterattacking a trench from which they d been ousted I think he s a beautiful Georgian war martyr than the Bloomsbury Apollo Rupert Brooke That eye Haunting And it s hard to imagine this ephebic studio apotheosis bearded and begrimed and blasting at Germans with a rifleEngland at war Fussell s pictures are fascinating Life seemed to stand uneasily still and in no direction was there any prospect Churchill the Regular Army obliterated Deadlock the government silent but there are rumors in the pubs and families in mourning everywhere you look But of course they don t and can tnow Lloyd George a draft of millions for 1916 s war ending Big Push the slaughter of infantry changes nothing decides nothing 60000 men down on the first day and Haig buts away at the German lines for another five months until 400000 are gone the Front so near the guns audible to Kent and Sussex an officer granted leave breakfasts in the trenches and dines at his club in London Both Fortnum Mason and Harrod s specialized in gift assortments
THE FRONT FORTNUM S FRUIT CAKE BEING ESPECIALLY POPULARfront Fortnum s fruit cake being especially popular lasting a society s powers of euphemism and denial strained to the limit Keep Calm Carry On Don t think you now better than Haig scapegoat the Pacifist for saying what we all fear Open Secrets so many have died and nothing is working a generation of Britons flounders in slime and shit drowns in a vast excremental slough scattered in the millions of muddy men are the poets Sassoon Owen Blunden enter the Armageddonite landscape plowed by infernal engines carrying with them three hundred years of sophisticated literary pastoralism England s inheritance of dulcet rural airs and homoerotic elegy The stylistic traditionalism of most of England s Great War writing Fussell writes has prevented us from seeing its connections to modernism Fussell made me feel bad for having uncritically accepted the Stein Lawrence view at least as summarized by Ann Douglas that American writers were best suited to writing the Great War because of America s relative detachment from English literary convention specious flummery anyway because of its recent experience of mechanized attrition the Civil War because of the nervous tension and demonic primitivism of classic American literature Moby Dick Poe s nightmares and because of the precedents of spare and unsentimental war writing in American prose Ambrose Bierce Grant s and Sherman s memoirs That s all well and good Fussell says if you don t care about irony Fussell is interested in English war writing because Sassoon Owen and Blunden modify ironically the pre modern tropes and imagery with which they must describe a modern experience. 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 supp. ,
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Sardonic but deeply conscious engagement with tradition the oneness of innovation and remembering new meanings from old meanings is what interests Fussell Literature is writing that remembers and refers and Fussell doesn t buy the argument rather the attitude the pose that Literature is made mute by horrors I dunno I find Wilfred Owen too richly Keatsian and Hemingway spare to the point of half wittedness Fussell ranges beyond WWI memoirs and poems to show how the Great War produced a mythic narrative of twentieth century technological conflict that later writers absorbed and augmented none brilliantly than Pynchon Fussell refers to Gravity s Rainbow throughout and in his conclusion says it represents almost the first time the ritual of military remembering is freed from all puritan lexical constraint and allowed to take place with a full appropriate obscenity I ve heard Gravity s Rainbow invoked as a digest of wildly different insights so it must be one of those mega anatomies touching Everything I ll add it to the list of to reads spawned by this by every book THE GREAT WAR AND MODERN MEMORY is the ind of war book that is especially cherished by people who feel morally obligated to hate war or perhaps accurately to hate the soldiers mostly but not always men who fight it Back in the days of Operation Desert Storm when Barnard educated NY Times columnist Anna uindlen was sneering at American combat troops as blue collar rabble not smart not rich not directed enough for college she also found time to make a ritualistic little salute to that graceful writer Paul FussellBut you can t always judge a man by the friends he chooses or who choose himOn one level this certainly is an anti war classic Paul Fussell effectively dramatizes the horror ugliness and futility of life in the trenches using eyewitness accounts historical records and the best literature and poetry written after the war by the survivors But the irony that may not be apparent to privileged noncombatants like Anna uindlen is that the war and its legacy had a brutalizing effect on everyone soldier and civilian alike Perhaps the most brilliant passage in the book describes how the war in the trenches by its very nature forced the combatants to see the men on the other side not as men at all but as a sub human menace as the Other Fussell describes how this way of thinking continued well after the war and how it infected men from all walks of life The faceless enemy of the trenches soon became Tolkien s Orcs Hitler s Jews William Faulkner s Snopes Clan Anthony Burgess Alex and Droogs This is revelatory writing full of fresh insight and Fussell deserves full credit for the brilliance of his intellect and the scope of his vision The irony however and Paul Fussell appreciated irony far than some of his later followers is that the privileged elite who comprise today s anti war left are themselves a product of the trenches When she dismissed over one million men and women as not smart not rich not directed enough for college Anna uindlen was herself upholding a long and dishonorable tradition None of us were human to her then or now To her and to the privileged who share her prejudices to this day in America the men and women of the Armed Forces are themselves the Huns the Pigs The Babykillers the Famine Irish or simply The OtherPaul Fussell understood his followers a lot better than his followers understood him A great book Using the tools of literary criticism to reflect on WW1 Fussell digs into how the war changed consciousness It was the war Fussell argues that makes the modern age an age of irony Traditional notions of the war virtues like honour valour and bravery disappeared into the shit and mud of the Western Front The cynicism towards authority and the official view portrayed in newspapers etc started in the war The troops could read The Times or The Daily Mail in the trenches two days after it was published They would read nothing of the great disasters of British arms such as The Battle of the SommeThere is so much to this book Page after page there are fascinating observations about how the imagination of this generation of Englishmen possibly THE most literate ie imbued with literary tastes shaped their reactions to the war A small point but one of many is that while the red poppy was indeed all over the battlefields so too was the blue cornflower But it was a peculiar English literary convention that settled upon the poppy as the symbolic flower of the war This flower of spring while it symbolised life was also short lived The red suggested the blood of life and the blood of violent young death There are other overtones to the poppy that perhaps the official remembrance committees would like to overlook Fussell analysis goes to places that are no doubt uncomfortable for the Colonel Blimp s of this world such as a certain homo eroticism evident in much of the poetry and prose that came out of the war Words and the shape they give to our memories and imaginations individually and collectively affect even the most visceral of experiences like modern warfare I did not understand this so fully until I read this book This masterful book published in 1975 provides a rewarding set of explorations in the way our experience of the war has been captured by literature and thereby filtered into our collective memory and understanding of it Fussell focuses almost exclusively on the British experience at the Western Front which includes out of the 500 miles of the continuous line from the Belgian coast to Switzerland the trenches of the Somme region of Picardy and of the Yrpes salient in Flanders His THESIS IS THAT THE UNIUE UALITIES is that the uniue ualities the war in its senseless slaughter severely challenged the ability of any narrative to capture its horrors but that the work of fiction memoir and poetry by certain notable participants forged some lasting truths that conform to an ironic turn in the literary enterprise This in turn paved the way for the reactions after the war in the Modernist masterpieces of irony by non participants with better writing talent eg Joyce Woolf Pound Eliot and later for a unfettered vision of its absurdity and obscenity in postmodernist works like Heller s Catch 22 and
Pynchon s Gravity s Rainbow despite their ostensible settings of World War 2 The long stalemates Gravity s Rainbow despite their ostensible settings of World War 2 The long stalemate trench warfare and its unprecedented levels of casualties due to automatic weapons and intensive artillery barrages contribute to the unusual ualities of this war so difficult to convey in its reality There was such a yawning gap between what was expected of the ill prepared men and what they could achieve between the platitudes and euphemisms of the officers and the press and the reality in the field So many deaths with no territory gained did not jive with any propaganda gloss of honorable sacrifice Life in the trenches with its mud lice rats and stench of excrement and decaying bodies long periods of bombardment and hopeless raids against machine guns and gas Very enjoyable very thought provoking but not necessarily very convincing Fussell s sui generis book is an extended literary criticism masuerading as social history or perhaps the other way round There are various arguments going on in here but the main thrust is that much of how we think about the modern world indeed our whole contemporary mindset Lies 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 whi.