This week our readings focus again on individual experiences of the war. Working with our document of poems (available as the history167 docx attached) or Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, respond to at least one of the following prompts.
1. Last week, one of the discussion prompts asked you to consider why Gabriel Chevallier’s Fear, published in France in 1930, was suppressed during the Second World War. Our main text for this week, Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth, was published just a few years later in 1933 in Great Britain to widespread success and also quickly became a bestseller. What do you think can explain why these two works were received so differently? Is it the works themselves? Or is it more related to the different experiences of Britain and France in the war?
2. Compare Jessie Pope’s poem “War Girls” to Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth. In what ways are these two accounts of women’s wartime experiences similar or different? What are some main themes that these two works reveal about women’s experiences of the war?
3. Choose one of our poems to analyze. Why did you choose this poem? What is a main theme of the poem? What does it reveal about the soldiers’ experiences of the war? What seems to be the poet’s intent?
4. Just as Gabriel Chevallier showed how the experience of combat in the war made traditional ideas about heroism obsolete or irrelevant, the poets who saw action in the trenches frequently made the same case in their poetry. Choose a poem and show how the poet’s choice of words tends to subvert the heroic or chivalric ideal.
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