The Great War, Hysterical Men and the Modernist Lyric



There is an accepted and established historical proximity between modernism and the 1914–18 engagement of forces from across Europe, the British Empire and North America that became known as the First World War, and the conflict features in the lives and texts of modernist writers: Ford Maddox Ford, Richard Aldington and e e cummings all wrote of their war experiences, while the stories in D. H. Lawrence’s England, My England and Other Stories (1922) are populated by returning soldiers, H.D. offers a personalised survivor’s war in Bid Me to Live(1960), Woolf examines the war as event and aftermath in Jacob’s Room (1922), and Mrs Dalloway (1925), and the battlefields of the Great War echo thematically and aurally throughout Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922). Possible articulations between the First World War and modernism have remained at the level of personal or thematic influence for some time, and it is only in the last decade that the contiguities of the cultural context of the war and the emergence of specific modernist forms and texts have come under close critical scrutiny. Many of these recent accounts have explored how language and communication and the boundaries and distinctions of the masculine subject were fundamentally disrupted by war, and the impact this had on the modernist texts that were produced out of, and after, the war.4


Male Body Honeymoon Period Love Song Traditional Femininity Love Poem 
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  1. 5.
    Julia Kristeva, Black Sun. Depression and Melancholia, trans. L. S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 25, quoted in Winter, 1995: 172 and 225.Google Scholar
  2. 13.
    See Wendy Holden, Shell Shock (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001), 4952 for details.Google Scholar

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© Alex Goody 2007

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