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Title: A study of the response of English poets to the South African War of 1899-1902
Author: Gasser, Brian
ISNI:       0000 0001 3492 1025
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1979
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This thesis examines the controversial South African War's influence on English poetry, highlighting the individual responses of established poets and drawing on the work of numerous minor verse-writers to define the changing tradition of 'patriotic' and 'war' poetry. Chapter I sketches the historical and social background, noting how events in South Africa assumed great magnitude for contemporaries whose popular Imperialism was severely tried and who made an unprecedented national 'war-effort'. In Chapter II the late-nineteenth-century tradition of 'patriotic' poetry is identified, through analysis of verse-anthologies and contemporary critical opinion, and by briefly studying the war's lesser poetry which confirmed this mood of Art-for-Morality's-sake writing. Chapter III describes Kipling's personal affection for South Africa, and the political aspirations which were related to his dedicated 1890s' verse-lessons. His reactions to the conflict reveal the disillusionment which distanced Kipling from his audience and changed his patriotic and imperialistic teaching. Inflated by the war, 'Rudyard Kiplingism' became a powerful literary movement. Chapter IV explains the discredit brought by Robert Buchanan's 'Hooligan' criticism, Edgar Wallace's 'barrack-room ballad' imitations, and Kipling's own ill-judged verses 'The Absent-Minded Beggar', but also argues that certain soldier-poets usefully exploited his reputation. Chapter V evaluates the contributions of four respected and influential patriotic poets: the 'undistinguished adequacy' of Alfred Austin, Poet Laureate; the strident verses of W.E. Henley; Henry Newbolt's strongly idealistic encouragement and consolation; and William Watson's brave but costly anti-war stance. Chapter VI considers a variety of poets in demonstrating how, while religious sanction for human conflict and empire-building was emphatically re-affirmed, some questioned the principle of War (including Meredith and Hardy) and denounced the sufferings inflicted on the Boers. The strain imposed on fireside poets' customary responses and rhetoric is outlined in Chapter VII, which also discusses the sentiments of Hardy's discontented 'war-poetry' and The Dynasts, before assessing the impact of personal bereavement on A.E. Housman's loyal poetry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: South African War, 1899-1902 ; Literature and the war ; War poetry, English ; History and criticism