Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon : from early poetry to autobiography
Quinn, Patrick J., 1946- (1988) Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon : from early poetry to autobiography. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.
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Both Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon achieved their
first real poetic successes during the Great War. Linked together
as fellow officers and friends, and flushed with the promise of
greater poetic achievement ahead, both writers perceived the war
initially as a vehicle by which they could rid themselves of
Victorian influences and produce startling results as realists.
But as the war continued and both men began to suffer its
effects, they realized that their verses had failed to alert a
victory-determined British populace to its jingoistic mentality.
By mid 1919, both poets were trying to adjust to civilian
status and to re-organize their lives after the upheaval of the
war: Graves attempted at first to expiate his memories of the
Western Front by moving to the Oxfordshire countryside and by
writing sentimental verse, but dissatisfaction with his marriage
and an inability to exorcise his neurasthenic nightmares led him
to experiment with psychological self-analysis in his poetry.
Sassoon's response to the war, in contrast, motivated largely by
a homo-erotic attachment to the enlisted men under his command
and a conviction of social injustice, turned him briefly to
socialism and social satire for a thematic approach to his poetry
in the early Twenties.
In their joint discontent, Sassoon and Graves searched
throughout the mid-Twenties for personal order and artistic
direction. Graves delved into Eastern philosophy and biblical
exegesis until, with the arrival of Laura Riding, his domestic
and creative life was turned around; from Riding, Graves gained
the strength to reject the values imposed upon him by his
background and his literary peers. Similarly, Sassoon struggled
to find a poetic cause commensurate with his talents, but his
disillusionment with the modern world caused him to turn inward
for inspiration. This introspection led Sassoon to a
contemplation of his past, through which he was eventually to
find the symmetry and positive cultural values that were
lacking in the modern world.
Thus, in their individual searches for creative inspiration,
both Graves and Sassoon severed relations with contemporary
British society and each turned to his own form of self-imposed
exile. Graves chose to escape into the uncharted brave new world
of the then undiscovered Majorca, while Sassoon opted for the
bucolic world of rural England in remembrance of things past.
The roads chosen at this juncture were to determine the direction
and tone of both writers' future works.
The recent publication of two biographies of Graves and of
Sassoon's diaries (1915-1925), together with collections of
their unpublished letters, allow a much clearer understanding of
the two poets' work throughout the war years and the Twenties, and
reflect the inexorable road to self-exile and autobiography that
was eventually to provide the only means of exorcising the war
from their personal lives and artistic endeavours.
|Item Type:||Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)|
|Subjects:||P Language and Literature > PR English literature|
|Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):||Graves, Robert, 1895-1985 -- Criticism and interpretation, Sassoon, Siegfried, 1886-1967 -- Criticism and interpretation, English poetry -- 20th century|
|Official Date:||May 1988|
|Institution:||University of Warwick|
|Theses Department:||Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies|
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