Dismantling Glory

Dismantling Glory

Lorrie Goldensohn
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Dismantling Glory
    Book Description:

    Dismantling Glory presents the most personal and powerful words ever written about the horrors of battle, by the very soldiers who put their lives on the line. Focusing on American and English poetry from World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War, Lorrie Goldensohn, a poet and pacifist, affirms that by and large, twentieth-century war poetry is fundamentally antiwar. She examines the changing nature of the war lyric and takes on the literary thinking of two countries separated by their common language.

    World War I poets such as Wilfred Owen emphasized the role of soldier as victim. By World War II, however, English and American poets, influenced by the leftist politics of W. H. Auden, tended to indict the whole of society, not just its leaders, for militarism. During the Vietnam War, soldier poets accepted themselves as both victims and perpetrators of war's misdeeds, writing a nontraditional, more personally candid war poetry.

    The book not only discusses the poetry of trench warfare but also shows how the lives of civilians -- women and children in particular -- entered a global war poetry dominated by air power, invasion, and occupation. Goldensohn argues that World War II blurred the boundaries between battleground and home front, thus bringing women and civilians into war discourse as never before. She discusses the interplay of fascination and disapproval in the texts of twentieth-century war and notes the way in which homage to war hero and victim contends with revulsion at war's horror and waste.

    In addition to placing the war lyric in literary and historical context, the book discusses in detail individual poets such as Wilfred Owen, W. H. Auden, Keith Douglas, Randall Jarrell, and a group of poets from the Vietnam War, including W. D. Ehrhart, Bruce Weigl, Yusef Komunyakaa, David Huddle, and Doug Anderson.

    Dismantling Glory is an original and compelling look at the way twentieth-century war poetry posited new relations between masculinity and war, changed and complicated the representation of war, and expanded the scope of antiwar thinking.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51303-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface: A Preliminary
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 The Dignities of Danger
    (pp. 1-41)

    Why should the short, tight little lyric be the form that modern poets choose for the outsized subject of war? At the birth of English, a good, big epic was the natural home for the war poem, where the Beowulf poet spread out battles and dangers over 3,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon. Centuries later, even the Americans felt compelled to make their first attempt at a national literature in this genre with Joel Barlow’s interminable opus, The Columbiad. Somehow, full statements about manhood and national definition find war their proper subject and the epic the proper vehicle for starting up a...

  7. 2 Wilfred Owen’s “Long-famous glories, immemorial shames”
    (pp. 42-82)

    Awe before the magnitude of war, at the sheer scale of the thing, never quite dies away; loud echoes of this can still be heard in descriptions of the massing of bodies and weapons mobilizing for war, even as technology chooses metal alloy and plastic increasingly over flesh in its assembly for hostilities. But the idea of war’s grandeurs also attaches gravely and persistently to war lamentation, as a union in death is figured as the exaltation of a noble company, indeed, a Sacred Band. From King David’s time, when David mourns the death of Jonathan in battle, we are...

  8. 3 W. H. Auden: “The great struggle of our time”
    (pp. 83-117)

    IT is not the custom to talk about American and British poems of World War II as if they belonged to the same language. Typically, English critics attempting to judge or sort out World War II poems push their fellow members of the Commonwealth into one drawer and then set aside a separate bin for the Americans, if they bring them on at all. American critics, perhaps mindful of the greater prominence of their national poetry in the early decades of modernism, or alive to the deluge of talent occurring in the United States after 1945, write fewer histories of...

  9. 4 Keith Douglas: Inside the Whale
    (pp. 118-173)

    IF war could no longer be said to be the thing painted in glory by Dryden or Tennyson, who had never been there, then what was it? Even more, why was it? W. H. Auden’s biographer, Richard Davenport-Hines notes that

    Victorian Christians like Auden’s clergymen grandfathers had regarded pugnacity and violence as expressions of original sin, and therefore as inescapable parts of human nature. This outlook, it seemed to many people who lived through the First World War, had led to an easy acceptance of ferocity in public policy. Most progressive people after the war insistently denied what their Christian...

  10. 5 Randall Jarrell’s War
    (pp. 174-234)

    WHEN readers have a mind to name Randall Jarrell’s best work, they often pick the war poems, by far the biggest group he wrote on any subject, or they light on the poems about childhood, found throughout Jarrell’s poetry, but consummately contained in the last book, The Lost World. You can see why the choice is made: some favor the one subject over the other—and each subject probably represents either a higher or a lower tolerance for history or autobiography on the part of the chooser. Why and how Jarrell’s war should connect with Jarrell’s children is, of course,...

  11. 6 American Poets of the Vietnam War
    (pp. 235-340)

    In Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, when Frederick Henry finds himself “embarrassed by the words sacred, glorious, and sacrifice and the expression in vain” (185) in the mouths of contemporary orators, he is poised at the outbreak of rebellion to the militarism that has swallowed nine million lives in World War I. At that moment, the modern war lyric, smashed by industrial war making, lost the old ways of commemorating and enduring sacrifice and was reborn into another kind of bearing witness and another set of aesthetic demands.

    Besides the changes in warfare itself, immense change in the style and...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 341-344)
  13. Works Cited
    (pp. 345-354)
  14. Index
    (pp. 355-368)
  15. Further Acknowledgments
    (pp. 369-372)