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Humanities 2019, 8(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010030

Meeting the Enemy in World War I Poetry: Cognitive Dissonance as a Vehicle for Theme

English Department, United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD 21402, USA
Received: 28 January 2019 / Revised: 12 February 2019 / Accepted: 13 February 2019 / Published: 19 February 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue War and Literature: Commiserating with the Enemy)
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PDF [245 KB, uploaded 19 February 2019]

Abstract

Some World War I poems show an enemy soldier up close. This choice usually proves very effective for expressing the general irony of war, to be sure. However, I submit that showing interaction with the enemy also allows the speaker space to wrestle with internal conflict, guilt, or cognitive dissonance, and that it allows—or even forces—readers to participate in that struggle along with the speaker. While the poets’ writings no doubt had therapeutic effects for the poets themselves, I focus more on the literary effects, specifically arguing that the poems are powerful to us readers since they heighten the personal exposure of the poets’ psyches and since they make us share the dissonance as readers. I consider poems by Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, Ford Madox Ford, Herbert Read, and Robert Service. View Full-Text
Keywords: World War I; war poetry; cognitive dissonance; enemies; encounters; Siegfried Sassoon; Wilfred Owen; Robert Graves; Ford Madox Ford; Herbert Read; Robert Service World War I; war poetry; cognitive dissonance; enemies; encounters; Siegfried Sassoon; Wilfred Owen; Robert Graves; Ford Madox Ford; Herbert Read; Robert Service
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Poynor, D. Meeting the Enemy in World War I Poetry: Cognitive Dissonance as a Vehicle for Theme. Humanities 2019, 8, 30.

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