Jane Hill’s Reading Question for March 24

  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke (Pages 104-106) is unusually optimistic or positive about the war, describing it in religious tones that one would more likely find in pre-WWI descriptions of ‘good and moral wars’. Is there any value to be found in this perspective about the war, and if so, what?
  • Isaac Rosenberg was born in 1890 to a poor Lithuanian, Jewish family that had to flee due to the harsh Russian occupation. Rosenberg then was raised in England and became a noted poet and artist before the war began. He was a strong pacifist and lacked any feelings of patriotism, and he faced a great deal of anti-semitism in the Allied army. In Rosenberg’s poem “Break of Day in the Trenches” (pages 137-138) the focus is on a rat with “cosmopolitan sympathies” as it rushes back and forth between the British and German trenches. What does the rat mean in the context of this poem, and how does Rosenberg’s unique background seem to shape this perspective? What are your responses to the ideas and views presented?
  • The poem “1914” by Rupert Brooke and the poem “1916 seen from 1921” by Edmund Blunden stand in sharp contrast to each other in terms of tone and feelings about both the Great War and war in general. “1914” is overall more optimistic, viewing war as a holy and righteous cause worthy of the pursuit of all who are virtuous, while “1916 seen from 1921” talks about the war as a tragic obligation that has destroyed a great deal. Brooke died in 1917, while Blunden lived until the 70s. How is it that the same historical situation produced such different views in different men in the same situations? Are both of these poems valid in their points, or is one or the other more or less valid than the other. Is there something to gain by reading these two works together, and if so what?
  • In the excerpt from “In Parenthesis” by David Jones, a consistent pattern of repeated sounds and phrases is used, such as “the rat of no-man’s-land” going “scrut,scrut,sscrut” or the repetition of the word “nor” in the final section. What emotion does this consistent style evoke in the reader, and are there other stylistic techniques used by Jones that you’d want to comment on?

Miranda’s Reading Questions for March 24th

  • “Break of Day in the Trenches” is essentially about a soldier in the trenches that comes across a rat. The soldier seems to resent the rat as the poem continues. In Rosenberg’s, “Break of Day in the Trenches”, what does the rat represent? Why does the narrator seem jealous of it? 
  • “Louse Hunting” is a poem that describes a battle fought on the soldier’s bodies rather than the battlefield. In this poem how are lice significant? How do they represent the war’s effect on the soldier’s psyches?  
  •  Blunden’s, “1916 Seen from 1921” is about the effects war has on soldiers’ lives. What are the narrator’s views on life after the war for soldiers? Are they accurate to this day? 

Marisol’s Reading Questions for March 22nd

There were too many wonderful questions to limit them to three, so I went ahead and listed everything that I thought was applicable to ask. Feel free to pick your favorites to answer!

1. What do you make of the poem On the Belgian Expatriation? Is this poem about the shattering of innocence where songs of peace are silenced by the presence of war? What did you make of the rhyme suddenly ending when the soldiers were introduced as an end to the dancing tune? Did you notice it, whether consciously or subconsciously?

2. Why is the moon consistently considered as something that overlooks the war? It is constantly a negative signifier, whether as something judgemental like in I Looked Up From My Writing or as a symbol of a lover’s moon or a reminder of peacetimes that is then resented? Is the sun too cheery for that endeavor, or do humans focus on the moon since people typically sink into depression at night when they are getting ready to rest?

3. Was anyone surprised by Rudyard Kipling’s involvement in the war? Do you think if he had written the Jungle Book, not in 1894, but sometime during or after The Great War, that the content would somehow be different? 

4. After reading the poem For All We Have and Are and the previous books assigned for class, how do you feel about Kipling’s gung-ho attitude toward war, filled with patriotic propaganda? Could he be compared to someone like Kantorek from All Quiet on the Western Front? The poem My Boy Jack complicates this question further; clearly, Kipling is glorifying sacrifice for one’s country. Why or why not? Let’s try to dig into the nuance of this attitude as well. 

5. In the poem Justice, he writes 

“For agony and spoil

Of nations beat to dust,

For poisoned air and tortured soil

And cold, commanded lust”

Is he romanticizing the loss and agony of these men? He acknowledges their sacrifice but is this still dangerous like Kantorek’s rhetoric?

6. Binyon’s For the Fallen is evidently famous, especially his 4th stanza which reads: 

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning 

We will remember them.” 

Why do you think this specific part of the poem gained fame? Would you consider this a respectful and beautiful inscription on a tomb, or would you consider this another piece of propaganda that aided in these deaths that may be deemed unnecessary and avoidable to others?

7. Charlotte Mew suffered a tragic life, yet in her poem May, 1915 she sprinkles in great optimism. Despite this, The Cenotaph is a little darker in this regard. Would you still argue that her poem The Cenotaph is a little more realistic in terms of loss in the war since her experiences with death made her more understanding and less eager to romanticize it? Or do you think she is still guilty, like other authors, of doing so?

8. Would you say Robert Service’s Tipperary Days reads like bitter satire? Does the tone of the poem change when you learn his brother Albert died in 1916 in the war? His poem Tri-color reads far more despairingly. Would you argue that that poem shows his true feelings more than Tipperary Days?

9. Wilfrid Gibson wrote The Messages, which uses repetition and periods to draw out the sense of a traumatized and shocked mind. He wanted “the War’s tragedies in a language freed from patriotic afflatus.” Do you think this uncomfortable honesty contributed to him falling out of fashion so quickly? How well does he cover PTSD in his writings? 

10. Between the Lines by Gibson creates a poignant story with ease, capturing the awful state of war. Do you think this is impressive, considering Gibson had to imagine much since he only served clerical duties in the war? What are your thoughts on how he captured anxiety in each of his poems? Also, stars are mentioned in this poem. Why do you think celestial bodies are a main piece in many of the stories we read? The moon as a taunter and stars as hope in the darkness?

11. The repetition of stanzas and lines can be seen in Gibson’s work and Cannan’s. Why do you think that tool is used? Does it build tension and anxiety, etc? 

Daniella Colón’s Reading Questions for February 10th, 2022

1) Many of Sassoon’s poems revolve around the experience of death in ways that are figurative and literal. From the sullen and straightforward nature of How to Die, to the intensifying nature of Counter-Attack, Sassoon’s attempts to give multiple portrayals of death through several perspectives in these collective poems. Compared to the likes of All Quiet on the Western Front and Not So Quiet, how are these themes portrayed differently through the use of poetry compared to the format of a novel? Is there a similar impact to be found?
2) The generals of Sassoon’s works are written to be far more flawed compared to the works of Smith and Remarque; works such as Base-Details and The General give distinct characterization, whether it be through a first-person perspective, or by the addition of dialogue to these pieces to give further contextualization to these individuals. Do these tactics enhance the effectiveness of Sassoon’s portrayal? How do they affect the tone of Sassoon’s works, along with his portrayal of war?
3) The Poet As Hero is written to be far more reflective and self-aware compared to his other works. Although it can be inferred as a message directed towards the reader, Sassoon’s words gain far more weight with the implication of his first-hand experiences of fighting for Britain in World War 1. He directly states how he once “sought the grail,” directly referencing his involvement in the war, and being told that his youth “rose immortal semblances of a song.” Yet, in the final stanza, he states that despite how his views have changed, Sassoon says that “there is absolution in my songs.” How does this collection of his poems back up this statement? How do the themes presented represent the changes discussed in The Poet As Hero?