1914/2014 : From "Blunder" to "Counter-Attack" : World War One Poetry and Beyond 24-25 October 2014

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University of Paris 3-Sorbonne Nouvelle

1914/2014 : From "Blunder" to "Counter-Attack" : World War One Poetry and Beyond
24-25 October 2014

World War One Poetry forces readers to go ?over the top? into the desolation of ?No Man?s Land?, and seeks to expose the absurdity of war, the error of prolonging it meaninglessly. Whereas Tennyson?s poetry could still transmute slaughter into blunder (?Someone had blundered?), posit passive acceptance as paradigmatic heroism (?Theirs not to make reply,/ Theirs not to reason why,/ Theirs but to do and die?) World War One poets rebel against technological warfare. Denouncing warmongers and superior officers, the poets make it their duty to respond to error and the adamant nationalism of warmongers (?to make reply?). Sassoon?s ?Counter-attack? shows that poetry, far from bowing before ideology, now strives to fight back and issue a plea to end the war. The division between them and us no longer applies as the enemy?s ghost returns to share common sorrow, the plight of pain. The sole enemy may well be the generals, the staff, the governments celebrating war efforts but anxious, Abraham-like, to destroy an entire generation of their sons. Poetry breaks down, discards epic lyricism to voice horror, figure disfigurment, the collapse of bodies and minds, fights against social amnesia (and potential civilian denial), with a view to revising official discourse and traditional war History.

We welcome papers studying

-the crisis of language (the shift from Brooke to Owen Blunden, Sassoon or Graves etc? to express unspeakable horror and the sensation of error, to shift from trauma to an ethics of care)

-the ironic distorsion of echoes, as if intertextuality mocked writer and reader (Biblical, Keatsian, lyrical or epic allusians, etc?)

-the way in which today?s poets respond to this legacy and indulge in an ongoing dialogue with the legacy of World War One

-the way fiction seeks to respond to the formidable poetic production during the war, either by focusing on poets (Allan Hollinghurst), or by exploring the tension between the staggering collapse of mind and body and the rebirth of poetic language through the encounter between Owen and Sassoon (as in Pat Barker?s Regeneration)

- The way in which the poetics of fiction reconfigures the legacy of World War One Writers by creating a reconfiguration of their own both through structural narrative devices and through metaphors and a new poetics. We welcome papers on British but also American, Canadian novels, or from other anglophone geographic areas.

-Papers may also look at the function of error in trauma and treatment. From Pat Barker to Will Self, writers have explored the pathological dimension of shock, and the (in)adequate medical responses, from denial, rest cure and electric shock treatment to talking cures seeking to see the slips and slippages of stuttering language as symptoms, composing the haunting grammar of the unspeakable.

Conference scientific committee: Marc Porée, Jennifer Kilgore-Karradec, Tim Kendall, Christine Lorre, Kate McLoughlin, Cécile Roudeau, Paul Volsick

Proposals must be sent to Catherine Lanone, catherine.lanone@univ-paris3.fr, before April 1, 2013.