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Title: Robert Graves and Siegfried Sassoon : from early poetry to autobiography
Author: Quinn, Patrick J.
ISNI:       0000 0000 8019 5434
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 1988
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PR English literature