Women's poetry of the First World War
This thesis seeks to study women's poetic response to the First World War a hitherto neglected area of the literature inspired by the war. It attempts to retrieve from oblivion the experience of the muted half of society as rendered in verse and document as far as possible the full range of the poetic impact the war made upon female sensibility. It is thematic in structure and concentrates upon the more recurrent of attitudes and beliefs which surface in women's war writings. The thematic structure was adopted to cover as wide a range as possible of the ways the historical experience could be met and interpreted in literature. This study takes into account the work of the established writers of the period as well as the amateur versifiers who made war their subject. The first chapter discusses verse which defines the nature of war as apprehended by the female consciousness. Chapter Two examines the poets' use of religious concept and image to lend meaning and purpose to an event entirely at variance with the ideals employed to explain it. The third chapter considers the exploitation of the perennial poetic subject of nature to interpret war by accommodating it into the language and thought of an apparently alien literary tradition. War as it impinged upon the consciousness of people on the Home Front is discussed in Chapter Four; it is partly concerned with revising the calumnious images of women in war time as set out by the soldier poets. Chapter Five looks into the writing of those women who wrote out of their experience of working in the various organisations which were an integral part of the machinery of warfare. War as an experience of suffering - suffering peculiar to the female - defines Chapter Six. The purpose of this study has been to suggest the variety of literary responses to the First World War by those who, at great cost, produce the primal munition of war - men - with which their destinies are inextricably ,linked. As part of a response to a particular historical event, the literary interpretation of which has conditioned modern war consciousness, women's war poetry is not without relevance for it adds a new dimension to the established canon of war literature and correspondingly a new vista to understanding the truth of war.