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Title: Orbits of a mad comet : outsiderdom, myths and collective memory in the life and works of Wilfred Owen
Author: Bryden, Thomas
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 0287
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines the work of Wilfred Owen in the context of his lifelong compulsion to present himself as an outsider possessed of elevated knowledge - as one who transcends the expectations of his social background and allies himself with groups who value esoteric knowledge. Though these tendencies have previously been noted by biographers and literary critics, this thesis posits that they are more influential on his poetry than has been previously observed, and explores the different outsider groups with which Owen aligns himself. This thesis also discusses Owen as an influential artistic figure alongside recent historical criticisms of myths about the First World War. As new perspectives on the conflict are explored, Owen's place in collective memory has increasingly been questioned and criticized as limited, and the reasons behind this, as well as the validity of the central place Owen holds in the conception of the 'War Myth' are investigated. These two elements are connected by the central assertion of this thesis, which is that while it can be shown that Owen is disproportionately influential and provides only a limited, personal account of a very complex historical event, when his work and his personal philosophy are taken into account, Owen in fact presents himself as representational only of outsider groups that consider themselves separate and elevated. It therefore becomes apparent from his writing, correspondence and from the proclivities made apparent by the decisions he made in the course of his short life that he should not be considered as an everyman, nor as a spokesperson for all soldiers. This was neither his intention, nor an appropriate didactic use for his writing. Through this interpretation, this thesis asserts that in tandem with expressing caution when confronted with widespread acceptance of the myths of the First World War, the informed observer must also be cautious about accepting the myths about Owen himself.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Wilfred Owen ; War Poetry ; First World War ; Great War