Modern Nostalgia: Siegfried Sassoon, Trauma and the Second World War

Modern Nostalgia: Siegfried Sassoon, Trauma and the Second World War

Modern Nostalgia: Siegfried Sassoon, Trauma and the Second World War

Modern Nostalgia: Siegfried Sassoon, Trauma and the Second World War

Synopsis

This book explores Siegfried Sassoon's writing of the twenties, thirties and forties, demonstrating the connections between trauma and nostalgia in a culture saturated with the anxieties of war. Informed by the texts of Freud, W. H. R. Rivers and other psychological writers of the early twentieth century, as well as contemporary theorists of nostalgia and trauma, this book examines the pathology of nostalgia conveyed in Sassoon's unpublished poems, letters and journals, together with his published work. It situates his ongoing anxiety about 'Englishness', modernity, and his relation to modernist aesthetics, within the context of other literary responses to the legacy of war, and the threat of war's return, by writers including Edmund Blunden, Robert Graves and T. E. Lawrence. This study teases out the relationship between nostalgia, trauma and autobiography, and forges connections between the literatures of the two world wars. As a case study of modern nostalgia, this book offers an alternative to the perception that Sassoon's historical and cultural relevance touches the First World War only. Key Features
• Provides the most thorough, eloquently crafted and focused revisionist study of Siegfried Sassoon to date
• Sets Sassoon's work in new contexts and offers Sassoon as a case study for new ways of remembering war
• Taps into current theories of trauma, nostalgia and memory
• Establishes continuities between the literary culture of the First and Second World Wars

Excerpt

Towards the end of 1944, an English publisher asked Siegfried Sassoon to select a collection of poems by soldiers serving in the Eighth Army during the fiercely fought invasion of Italy. Sassoon reluctantly accepted. the brief and typically diffident introduction he wrote in response provides unexpected insights into his own later writing. in his prose autobiography, Siegfried's Journey: 1916–1920, with which he was struggling at the time of this request, he acknowledges that his own traumatic memories of combat from the First World War still held 'an awful attraction' over his mind 'in spite of [his] hatred of war'. Yet readers of Poems of Italy find that he forges a connection with this group of soldier-poets not through a sense of shared combat experience on foreign soil, but by recalling a personal encounter. 'In the now distant-seeming days of 1942' Sassoon had the chance to meet the current commander of the Eighth Army, Sir Oliver Leese, when he was stationed at an impromptu camp struck in the park of Sassoon's Wiltshire country house. the movement from the realm of combat trauma to the sequestered realm of the home is telling. the home front, not the frontline, becomes the dominant locus of Sassoon's 'Second Great War'. Having established his connection to the writers he must introduce in Poems of Italy, Sassoon observes that the 'wholly authentic soldier poet[s] … are both ancient and modern in their technique'. This categorical binary is typical of Sassoon's idiosyncratic simplifying; ancient refers to traditional metrical poems coming 'straight from the heart', which he favours (despite the woefully hackneyed phrase), and modern refers to 'unrhymed . . .

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