‘Stand in the Trench, Achilles’

A while back I wrote a review of the most illuminating book about war poetry that I have read in recent years. It is Elizabeth Vandiver’s ‘Stand in the Trench, Achilles’:Classical Receptions in British Poetry of the Great War.

This book starts from the fact that the officer poets of the Great War all had some  familiarity – and some had a very close familiarity –  with the Greek and Latin classics that were still the staple of a public school education. Her book explores ways in which the ideals and imagery of this literature were taken to war by these poets, and offered useful ways of thinking about new and terrible experiences. Critics like Paul Fussell insist that we should regard poems with a heightened vocabulary epic references as mere glorification of war; Elizabeth Vandiver shows poets using classical references as ‘ a touchstone of poetic sincerity’.

I wrote the review some time ago, but it has only just appeared, in the journal English Studies. The publishers, Taylor and Francis, have sent me a link to the full text of the review, which they invite me to share with others, including readers of  this blog.

I am happy to say that the last sentence of the review, about the price of the first edition, is now out of date. A paperback can now be found on Amazon, priced much more reasonably.

The link to my review is: http://www.tandfonline.com/eprint/CmYgsZsRPM9cPTKt2rmu/full

One Comment

  1. Ralph Spurrier
    Posted June 25, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    Many thanks for this nudge George. I’ve just ordered a copy. Having studied WW1 poetry at BA level at Sussex University I have always thought (and argued) that the classical education of the typical officer class at that time had a lot more influence on their perspectives of what they saw and experienced than has been previously been believed. Guy Chapman’s quote from Thucydides in the closing pages of “A Passionate Prodigality” is a perfect example of one who knew his classics thoroughly – and expected his readers to be as well-read as he since the Greek quote is given in the original and not translated.


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