This third year module takes students right to the heart of one of the most topical subjects of the modern world. As wars continue across the globe, we examine the roots of current conflicts as they can be found in the war writings of men and women since the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. We examine poetry, fiction, life writing and film, thinking about the impact of war experience on the development of each literary genre and on our own understanding of that experience in the contemporary world. Our key texts include:
- Erich Maria Remarque’s ground breaking 1929 bestseller, All Quiet on the Western Front showing us the Great War first hand through the eyes of young German soldier, Paul Baumer. After nearly ninety years it still holds the power to shock the modern reader.
- Mary Borden’s extraordinary war book, The Forbidden Zone, also first published in 1929, brings together a series of sketches and stories that show the First World War on the Western Front from the point of view of a nurse in a front line hospital.
- Primo Levi’s outstanding account of his time in Auschwitz during the last years of the Second World War, If This is a Man, (1958), is one of the most popular texts with students who take this module. Levi’s quiet, understated prose never fails to move the reader.
- American writer, Kurt Vonnegut, shows us a different side of war experience in his 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse 5. Another student favourite, this offers a very unusual way of thinking about the bombing of Dresden by the Allied Forces in 1945.
- Taking us right into the twenty-first century, Harry Parker’s novel, Anatomy of a Soldier, (2016) adopts a very unusual range of perspectives for examining the experience of a soldier in Afghanistan. The book is narrated from the point of view of forty-five inanimate objects!