creativity in time of war

Today we broached the world of Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen and Rupert Brooke. The focus was on the way the English language became transformed during this period with the direct impact of the horrors of the First World War. The jingoistic idealism of Rupert Brooke was kicked out by the hard hitting, grating, consonantal observation of Sassoon and Owen ( and others): “Tins, boxes, shapes too vague to know; /a mirror smashed…”God blast your neck! Get up and guide me through this stinking place.””Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, /Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge…” – All the horror and detritus of human beings totally abandoned, mired in a landscape totally destroyed.

What did these poets bring to this landscape through their unrelenting vision of human bestiality? Was it their capacity to see unflinchingly, to see wholly, to see with compassion, sympathy and with the deep necessary satiric irony that all governments need to be subject to?

We discussed very much the way that creative artists have the power to make us see the world in new ways, often shocking us (and society at large) into realising that our usual responses may be inhumane and completely inappropriate.

Charlie Chaplin is one of the great creators who dared to challenge both the first and the second World War with his extraordinary mimicry.

Here are some Blog Topics you might consider for this area. Remember you are also entirely permitted to create topics of your own if you think they fit in to our discussions this week. These topics can of course draw on your own experience as much as on the literature we have been looking at. 

Blog Topics for Week Your First Week of Blogs:

1/ CREATIVE Take the first line of any one of the poets studied this week, and in the style of that poet, compose your own poem about the horror of wars as you might imagine them.

2/ CREATIVE Write a letter to Sassoon or Owen telling them that their vision, their ideas are still sorely needed in the world today.

3/ CRITICAL Create a mini-digital kit that helps newcomers with some great resources for understanding the power of war poetry.

4/ CRITICAL How does your response to Sassoon’s “On Passing the New Menin Gate” make you reassess your reaction to war memorials in your own country? Try to be as honest as you can about this.

5/ CREATIVE Create an atmospheric youtube video of yourself reading and commenting on one of the war poems we have been exploring:

6/ CRITICAL How effective do you think Charlie Chaplin was with his creative challenge to war?

Please look out for the list of Peer URLs so that you can get started on your peer reviews.


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