Modernist poetry and film of the Home Front, 1939-45
This thesis is an exploration of the links between modernist literature and film and society at a period of historical crisis, in Gramscian terms a moment of national 'popular will'. In general, these works are informed by a greater organicity of form, replacing the previous avant-garde model of a serial or mechanical structure. This organicity, however, maintains an element of disjunction, in which, as with filmic montage, the organicity is constituted on the level of the work seen as a totality. Herbert Read's aesthetics are shown to develop with these changes in the Thirties and the war years. The work of H.D. and T.S. Eliot is explored in the light of these new structural elements, and the formal questioning of the subject through the interplay of 'we' and montages of location and address in the poems. The pre-war years are portrayed in these works as a time of shame, and the war as a possible means of redemption, perhaps through suffering, or through the new subjectivity of the wartime community. The documentary movement provides an opportunity to trace these formal changes in a historical and institutional context, and with the work of Dylan Thomas, the relations between mass and high culture, film and poetry, are investigated, as well as the representation of the Blitz, in which guilt is sublimated into celebratory transcendence. These aspects, and the adaptation of a European avant-garde to meet British cultural needs, are examined in the work of the Apocalyptic movement. The last structure of feeling is reconstruction, which is related to Herbert Read's thought, but shown to inform all these other works and to be a linking-point between ideology and the structure of the text, formed as an organic unity that promises a reconstructed post-war society.