Into the Vortex: Britain & the First World War - 30 credits (HS1787)
Module Tutor: Toby Thacker
This module explores Britain’s role in the First World War, and examines the impact the war had on British society and culture. It takes a twin track approach. On the one hand, it explores the military history of the war. On the other, it examines the cultural history of the war through the study of literature, art and music. We will pay particular attention to a selected group of artists whose work both embodied the experience of war, and shaped British views of the war. The writers, poets, painters and composers we consider – while many have taken on iconic roles in twentieth-century Britain – exemplify varied perspectives on the war. They have been chosen to represent the traditional and the modern, and to provide something of a cross section of British society in 1914. They include the poets Rupert Brooke and Hedd Wyn; the authors Vera Brittain, Siegfried Sassoon, and T. E. Lawrence; the painters Christopher Nevinson, Paul Nash and Stanley Spencer; and the composers Edward Elgar and Hubert Parry. Studying these men and women and the work they produced either during the war, or in the years after 1918, provides a fascinating lens through which to explore the war’s effect on British society and culture. What was the involvement of these individuals in the war? How did they view the war’s progress? How is the war depicted in their work? In looking at the impact of the First World War on British society and culture, the module blends the military and social history of the period to examine how the British tried to come to terms with the war, how its progress was viewed, and how society responded to the war.
Dr Toby Thacker's research interest focus on propaganda and culture in Germany, citizenship and identity, and writing biographies. His recent study, Joseph Goebbels: Life and Death (2009), is the first to be written since the entire set of Goebbels’ diaries has been published and offers important new contentions and insights.
Preliminary Reading for this module:
Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Bantam, 1989)
Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory (Oxford University Press, 1975)
Samuel Hynes, A war imagined: the First World War and English culture (Bodley Head, 1990)
Arthur Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War (Macmillan, 1991)
A. J. P. Taylor, The First World War: an illustrated history (Hamish Hamilton, 1963)
Jon Silkin, The Penguin Book of First World War poetry (Penguin, 1996)
Richard Cork, A bitter truth: avant-garde art and the Great War (Yale University Press, 1994)
Jane Potter, Boys in Khaki, Girls in Print: Women’s Literary Responses to the Great War 1914-1918 (Clarendon Press, 2005)
Gary Sheffield and John Bourne (eds), Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914-1918 (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2005)