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A War of IndividualsBloomsbury Attitudes to the Great War$
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Jonathan Atkin

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780719060700

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: July 2012

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719060700.001.0001

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Writers in uniform

Writers in uniform

(p.102) 5 Writers in uniform
A War of Individuals

Jonathan Atkin

Manchester University Press

In our search for reflections of aesthetic response to the Great War across barriers of experience, the soldier, poet and author Richard Aldington is a good example of John Galsworthy's identification of the human spirit under the pressure of a seemingly mechanised military existence (the ‘herd of life’). He introduces a series of creative men who actually donned a uniform at some stage (though not always willingly) and fought at the front. Gerald Brenan was another fledgling writer in uniform who, like Aldington, felt his soul threatened by the strictures of war. Unlike Brenan, the poet Max Plowman declared his anti-war feelings and suffered a court martial. For Plowman and others, the experience of being within the war machine acted both as a compass towards and a justification of his later anti-war stance. Two further examples of this process concerned possibly the most celebrated poets of the war: Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. Robert Graves's concern was with the outward effect of an anti-war protest on the very individuals whom Siegfried Sassoon was supposedly trying to influence.

Keywords:   Great War, Richard Aldington, poets, anti-war protest, Gerald Brenan, Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Max Plowman, John Galsworthy

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