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Title: The winds of change : world war I literature in England and Germany
Authors: Muhammad Aidil Suffian Abdullah
Keywords: DRNTU::Humanities::Literature::English
Issue Date: 2014
Abstract: In 1914, the biggest armed warfare of its time occurred; a global event that would go on to reshape the course of human history forever. Amidst the backdrop of heightened political tensions in Europe, World War I violently burst forth into the world’s consciousness, shattering the already “uneasy state of affairs” (Waltz 619) in the world. Best remembered as the war that brought about the “advent of modern engines of destruction” such as “machine-guns [and] service rifles”(Gregory 446), World War I inevitably led to countless losses, with an estimated 15 million casualties (White) and was believed to have cost its participants the total “cost [of] $80,680,000,000” (Fisk 1). To begin analysing this tragic event, it may be useful to limit our focus on two of its highest-profile participants, namely Great Britain and Germany. However, for the purposes of a more concise analysis, this paper will be focusing on strictly World War I-era English and German literature. An analysis will be carried out in this paper to delve into what can be deemed as classic trench poems, literature which maintained “a firm grounding in the reality of daily life in the trenches while presenting its anti-war message “(Wurtz 207) - something that is commonly found in both English and German literature of the time. However, a closer examination will reveal that while the English war literature extensively aimed to shock and change public opinion of the war, German literature took on a more ambivalent aim, portraying the war as cruel and brutal, but ultimately, necessary and just. During the course of this paper, a systematic timeline of the war will be laid out, to chart out public opinion in both countries before and during the war, how these opinions were shaped by their respective governments and how ultimately, the trench poems of the time succeeded in shifting public support for the war, specifically in England. However, the latter cannot be said for Germany, as the impact of such literature of the time was mitigated by the more pressingly-real concern of economic hardship and famine that Germany was suffering from as a result of the war, leading to a social revolt within Germany for these pragmatic reasons. For England, it can be claimed that "in objective truth the Great War in no way inflicted crippling economic damage on [England]" (Barnett 425) but instead, that the war had "crippled [them] psychologically" (emphasis in original) (Barnett 425). Thus, it can be said that the trench poems had had the most impact and influence on English society, causing a rapidly growing paradigm shift in their attitudes towards the war, based on a difference of ideology.
Schools: School of Humanities and Social Sciences 
Rights: Nanyang Technological University
Fulltext Permission: restricted
Fulltext Availability: With Fulltext
Appears in Collections:HSS Student Reports (FYP/IA/PA/PI)

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