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MODERNISM, MALE INTIMACY, AND THE GREAT WAR

BY SARAH COLE

I. WAR DISCOURSE: FRIENDSHIP AND COMRADESHIP

Now, the war, at any rate on the Western Front, was waged by
Battalions, not by individuals, by bands of men who, if the spirit were
right, lived in such intimacy that they became part of one another. The
familiar phrase, a happy Battalion, has a deep meaning, for it
symbolises that fellowship of the trenches which was such a unique and
unforgettable experience for all who ever shared in it, redeeming the
sordidness and stupidity of war by a quickening of the sense of
interdependence and sympathy.
B. H. Liddell Hart, 19331

In these exemplary lines, a former officer and influential military


historian elaborates the widely held view that during the Great War,
male friendship provided the stable anchoring point for a world in crisis.
Most central is the notion that fellowship redeems the sordidness and
stupidity of war, that it transforms an obscene expense of human life
and material resources into a spiritual rebirth. Liddell Hart imbues the
intimate relations between men with a religious ethos, transferring to
comradeship the transcendence traditionally associated with Christian
self-sacrifice and patriotic duty. In accordance with the dominant
morality of the public schools and other such institutions, Liddell Hart
privileges corporate identity over individuality, assigning the highest
value to interdependence, sympathy, and the gradual intermingling
of men who become part of one another. Further, embedded in
Liddell Harts assumption about the positive implications of a military
world organized around the male group is the belief that comradeship in
war functions as the primary replacement for such traditional locales of
social order as the school, the church, and the family. So self-sustaining
are these bands of men, and so mutually intertwined at the level of
both body and identity, that their community seems provocatively to
challenge ideological norms governing civilian conduct. Yet, Liddell
Hart is careful to present the shift in institutional hierarchy as a function
of the extremity of war, rather than a sign of social turbulence:

Sarah
ELH 68Cole
(2001) 469500 2001 by The Johns Hopkins University Press 469
friendship does not so much threaten the family and civilian society as
improve them, providing a moral guide-post for an implicitly inferior
home culture.
Liddell Harts image of a devastating war redeemed by the intimacy
nourished among its combatants became something of a cultural
commonplace during and after the war. Yet, his assertion that masculine
comradeship provides the only sustaining relation in a time of moral and
physical degradation appears to sweep aside tensions that ordinarily
inhere in such relationstensions involving the body, the individuals
conflict with the group, the troubled relation of tradition to modernity.
In what follows, I shall take seriously Liddell Harts suggestion that male
relations appeared to offer those who fought the possibility of restruc-
turing and revaluing principles of social order. I propose that the
crushing problem of male intimacy functioned to coalesce and crystal-
lize a number of discourses surrounding masculinity and the male body
in the First World War period, but that it could not ultimately resolve
the contradictions inherent in the different visions of male unity that the
war generated.2
My argument about the war has two central points. First, in an
analysis of masculine intimacy that works to unravel the complex knot of
ideas surrounding male relations, I hope to demonstrate that comrade-
ship did not function as the culture demanded, and that this failure
generated a particularly resonant form of anger and bewilderment. In
the official dogma of the war, comradeship was meant to sustain the
soldier, to provide the possibility for heroic action, to redeem the
horrific suffering that the war endlessly inflicted. Yet the crucial fact of
the war was that it destroyed friendship. Thus the bracing imperative to
organize and stabilize masculine intimacy became a futile enterprise,
desperate and debilitating. It is this tragic paradox about the impossible
demands for intimacy during the Great War that fueled both popular
and canonical writers and continued to engage the post-war imagina-
tion.3
Accordingly, my second overarching point is that the figure of the
bereaved male friendwhose very being is constituted by the loss of
war matesbecomes the wars representative par excellence, and that
post-war disconnection and disillusion will thus be articulated specifi-
cally in terms of the creation and loss of powerful male friendships. War
writers created an icon who ceaselessly asserts, in Siegfried Sassoons
words, my killed friends are with me where I go, and it is this voice
with its close ties to the isolated men populating the works of such
figures as Conrad, Forster, Woolf, Eliot, and Lawrence, and its broad

470 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


resonance for a half century of writers and criticsthat helped to
constitute a specific language in the canon of British modernism.4 Ezra
Pounds dismissal of the war poets notwithstanding, I suggest that a
certain picture of modernism, which involves alienated, suffering males
who both revile the past and demand that the world listen to their story
of modernity, erupts out of the conflict between incompatible forms of
male community.
The term modernism is, of course, a notoriously slippery and
controversial one (especially when disciplinary and geographical specifi-
cations are borne in mind), and my usage here warrants a word of
clarification. I am primarily interested in a set of dominant thematic and
formal structures that literary critics have taken to be both determina-
tive and characteristic of canonical British literature in the first half of
the twentieth century. Figures like the alienated wanderer; problems
such as the impermeability of the individual psyche; images of fragmen-
tation and loss (at both personal and cultural levels); an apparent
rejection of tradition; formal features such as narrative discontinuity
these are among the defining features of modernism as conventionally
conceived. Let me concede that to rely on this set of characteristics
tends to reproduce a highly masculinist and rather narrow view of the
periods literary developments, for it locates modernism in a specific
type of text, with value judgments attached, rather than simply in a
historical moment.
Yet it is precisely this overwhelming literary authority that interests
me about this picture of modernism. Can we anatomize the modernism
associated with a handful of British writers (almost exclusively male) by
looking in new ways at crucial elements of the corpus, and can such an
analysis produce a productive reevaluation of their striking cultural
authority? To delineate the roots of modernism in a crisis of male
institutions does not so much perpetuate a gender-biased conception of
twentieth-century literary accomplishment, I hope, as contribute to the
process of reassessing a literary period that has been remarkably
successful in maintaining its traditional borders.5 And while the First
World War represents a crucial site for the gendering of modernism, the
trajectory I develop hereout of Victorian military ideology into a
friendship model, and ultimately into a self-perpetuating and self-
legitimizing alienationcan also be mapped onto discourses of imperi-
alism and classicism, and its excavation thus helps to expose a larger
pattern of masculine self-authorization in the twentieth century.6
The modernism I shall develop, then, remains a stubbornly mascu-
line enterprise in important ways; its central figures will be males

Sarah Cole 471


formed by an unstable mutual intimacy. This conception of male
intimacy neither banishes nor reduces to homosexuality. Rather than
follow traditional critics in denying the importance of homosexual desire
in war literature, or, alternatively, arguing that the emphasis on com-
radeship represents above all a veiled effort to express homosexual
longing, this analysis resists the temptation to isolate homosexuality
from the range of male ties that permeated war existence. Clearly, the
spectrum from the homosocial to the homosexual became an axis along
which individual identity was imagined during the war, and war litera-
ture is rife with contradictions about the status and nature of physical
intimacy.7 The imperative to express extreme and challenging forms of
male communion motivates a wide range of texts, as war writers develop
rich strategies to transform the culturally fraught idea of friendship into
a unifying social structure that will have the power to protect male
bonds, even as those bonds are relentlessly threatened by the realities of
war.
The wars urgent language about male intimacy presents a complex
set of personal, social, and institutional conflicts, where the homosexual
body is linked with other forms of masculine vulnerability and protest,
and I am thus hesitant to set homosexual desire in opposition to the
status quo, to assume, for instance, that this deviant category functions
in a subterranean way to challenge dominant gender norms. If there is
a clear theoretical appeal in following Judith Butlerin assuming that
the performance of gender troubles the smooth narrative of normativity
I find that in the case of the war, too much historical and literary
specificity must be sacrificed in order to assert an empowering dynamic
of gender disorder.8 In thinking about the protean shapes of male
relations during the war, that is, I believe it is essential to remain wary of
the assumption that homosexual desire perforce occupies the position of
wily antagonist against the bulwark of convention, that its dispersal
threatens to stall or disrupt the dominant engines driving gender
conventions. Ultimately, the homoerotic in this discussion will become
almost an institution of its own, as war writers imagine forms of intimacy
that thwart civilian definitions and categories. And it is precisely this
saturated, overdetermined, and impermeable quality about war com-
munity that impels friendship both to withstand the war and to reshape
the men who proclaim themselves its representatives.

Returning to Liddell Harts 1933 description of wars structure, we


find at its core a ringing endorsement of comradeship as a valorous and
redemptive relation, the primary value to be gleaned and retained in the

472 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


years after the armistice. Many narratives of the post-war decade (which
experienced a war-reminiscence boom) share the desire to recuperate a
cultural investment in male fellowship, and this extolling of comrade-
ship often increases as the war recedes into the category of history. In an
unpublished memoir composed as late as the 1980s, R. G. Dixon
continues to hold that comradeship provided the only real value of the
war years, which are otherwise depicted as a hell of all-pervading
corruption, of terrible and soul-appalling futility.9 For Dixon, the
tragedy is that the transcendence of comradeship has gradually evapo-
rated with the passage of time: I know for myself that I have known no
such comradeship as those old years gave to us who fought on the old
Western Front. As the years go by . . . there are fewer and fewer of us
left who knew that comradeship . . . [which] implied a faithfulness even
unto death to ones fellows, and this is no empty thing.10 In a memoir
characterized by riveting language that forces the past into a present
immediacy, these lines stand out for their insistence that comradeship is
consigned irrevocably to the past, to an uncapturable, bygone era, and
cannot properly be conveyed to a new generation.
If one central problem for war literature is to find a language
adequate to the unfamiliarity, ineffability, and horror of the war, Dixon
indicates that this challenge even more pointedly characterizes the
effort to represent wars intimacies.11 The inexpressibility of war friend-
ship thus coincides in interesting ways with the kind of double-talk that
so marked much homoerotic literature in Edwardian Britain. In both
cases, the impossibility of speaking about male intimacyto women,
who are treated with suspicion, and to the culture at large, which is
punitive and repressiverequires the writer to create a new and cryptic
language, often by invoking historical and literary traditions associated
with the cultural authority of the Greeks and the Bible.12 During the
war, the tradition of using elevated language to characterize the inex-
pressibility of connections between men became increasingly common,
providing a shared vocabulary for widely divergent texts, where the
precise nature of male love remained blurred.
Yet there are important differences between, for instance, aesthetic
conventions for invoking the love that dare not speak its name and the
assertion of inexpressibility as described by writers like Dixon. If
decadent critics of the fin de sicle had invoked both classicism and the
trope of purity beyond words in order to negotiate a space within a
repressive culture, war writers experienced inexpressibility less as a strategy
for self-protection than as a failure in language. As the standard critical
narrative has it, combatants had to contend with intense and disorient-

Sarah Cole 473


ing conditions across the perceptual and epistemological spectrum,
which entailed a kind of erasure of recognizable signification. In the
case of personal relations, the problem of failed language is registered
by a sense that words, as cultural artifacts, cannot easily bypass their
own embededness in social structures and hence are inadequate to new
forms of bonding that function outside of civilian institutions.
If the trope of inexpressibility works to sanctify the male relations of
war, detaching them from ordinary life, it also draws attention to a basic
contradiction in the conception of war intimacy. In Liddell Harts
celebration of comradeship, personalized intimacy between individuals
functions harmoniously alongside the corporate identity of a happy
battalion. Yet such a smooth continuum from the personal to the public
generally runs into trouble in Great War literature, as a heightened
tension between these two distinct types of loyalty often creates the
central textual problem or crux. I want to focus more closely on this
distinction to define and name a phenomenon of disruption that has
gone entirely unnoticed by critics. Although nearly all war writers and
current critics use the terms comradeship and friendship synony-
mously, it will be helpful at this point to set up a distinction: I shall use
the term friendship to apply to individualized relations of amity or
love between men, and comradeship to refer to a corporate or group
commitment, a relation particular to war and typically described in
elevated language.
Frederic Mannings war novel, Her Privates We, provides a useful
demarcation of the differences between friendship and comradeship:

No, he said finally. I dont suppose I have anyone, whom I can call a
friend. I like the men, on the whole, and I think they like me . . . I have
one or two particular chums, of course, and in some ways, you know,
good comradeship takes the place of friendship. It is different: it has its
own loyalties and affections; and I am not so sure that it does not rise on
occasion to an intensity of feeling which friendship never touches. It
may be less in itself, I dont know, but its opportunity is greater.
Friendship implies rather more stable conditions, dont you think? You
have time to choose. Here you cant choose . . . At one moment a
particular man may be nothing at all to you, and the next minute you will
go through hell for him. No, it is not friendship. The man doesnt matter
so much, its a kind of impersonal emotion, a kind of enthusiasm, in the
old sense of the word.13

Where many writers either unconsciously or deliberately confuse the


personal with the impersonal, Manning takes great pains to expose them
as separate and conflicting. For the Australian Manning, steeped in his

474 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


countrys particular reverence for mateship, voluntary individualism
remains the defining feature of friendship.14 In contrast, comradeship is
attached to a spirit of corporateness of which he is highly suspicious, to
the horrors of mass conscription and modern warfare, to the endless
substitution of one man for another. Although in the passage Manning
presents the reproducibility of comradeship in terms of its connection
with heroisma positive attribute of the warthe threat of substitut-
ability haunts his novel, as it does many war texts. The distinction
between friendship and comradeship thus signals the difference be-
tween a world organized around the individual and one in which human
beings, rendered passive and indistinguishable, become fodder for a
voracious war machine. Indeed, if friendship implies rather more
stable conditions, the ironic suggestion is that modern war may
preclude the very possibility of friendship. As one officer explained in a
letter home, And as for ones friends, they change more rapidly than
anything. Some get killed, and others get sent home to England, and
you never hear of them again.15
While different forms of male loyalty may promise to bolster each
other, creating a coherent system of interlocked identifications, in
practice one model supersedes the other. It seems that one must choose
between friendship and comradeship. In the official rhetoric of the war,
propagated by the General Staff, members of government, and numer-
ous civilian individuals and organizations, group solidarityordinarily
expressed at the level of regiment or battalionalways takes prece-
dence over individual friendships. In The Spirit of a Division, an
editorial essay in the 1918 edition of a trench magazine, the editor
concisely conveys the wars faith in the ascendancy of its units: in a
division that is for ever fighting, for ever changing, there is something
that lives on, is never lost. Rather it grows in strength and character as
the years pass by. The soul, the spirit of a division, call it what you will,
does not die.16 The division is imaged as an individual (with a soul, its
own personality), yet its corporate nature renders it superior to any
human individual, a superiority that is only increased by the quasi-
religious legitimization invoked by the idea of spirit.
This kind of extreme privileging of group over individual is not
unique to war, having permeated British culture for many years before
1914. The moral system disseminated, for instance, by the public
schools involved a heavy emphasis on individual submission to group
loyalty, on playing up under the sign of esprit de corps. The rhetoric
surrounding masculinityin relation to athleticism, house and school
loyalty, patriotic and imperial sentimentinevitably relied upon intense

Sarah Cole 475


group identification, and this matrix of attitudes about manliness and
loyalty to impersonal institutions found its logical culmination in the
theater of war.17 Thus E. B. Osborn could include in his 1917 collection
of war poems a section on School and College, in which we find the
following lines, from a poem entitled Harrows Honour: The stron-
gest bond of all, the bond of friends / Made in our youth, o bond that
naught can break, / Binds us to you [Harrow] until our journey ends, /
We live, we fight, we die for Harrows sake.18 While Harrows Honour
represents an extreme example of the public-school war spirit, its
premises about the logical relations among masculinity, school ties, and
the willingness to die in battle formed a central part of the ideological
landscape of the First World War.19
In the official language of war, then, no conflict is possible between
comradeship and friendship, because the former simply overrides the
latter; at the same time, writers like Liddell Hart attempt to create an
ideal of military bonding that will allow for the two types of male
fellowship not only to coexist, but to sustain and perpetuate one another.
Before turning to writers who are less sanguine about the contradictions
surrounding intimacy, we need to understand fully one salient point:
despite all its self-presentation as the purveyor of male loyalty, the war
destroyed friendship. The assault on friendship took two forms, as
individual friends were killed in the ordinary course of the day, and as
the concept of friendship was treated with contempt by a bureaucracy
that endlessly and arbitrarily separated friends.
Far from being a site of great intimacy, the war fostered distance and
self-protectiveness.20 In an unpublished memoir, W. B. Henderson
explains in more detail the problem of the wars disruption of friendship:

Army life which brings together men of very different types and by
forcing them to life in close contact with one another very often causes
a feeling of comradeship and friendship to arise, in too many cases
breaks up the friendship before it has well begun . . . To the many men
to whom these relationships with their comrades mean much, the
feeling comes that it is useless to make friends in the army. They are like
travelers coming to an inn for a night, meeting strangers there, spending
an evening over the fire in the enjoyment of mutual sympathy and in the
discovery of common pleasures and interests, feeling their hearts
warming and a kindling desire to know more and to see more of these
new found friends. Then the morning comes; each must go his own way;
they part.21

The war creates friendshipindeed places it at the center of human


existenceonly to destroy it. Hendersons image of the travelers at the

476 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


inn indicates the precise dilemma created by the wars mass bureau-
cracy: at one level, combatant men experience normal emotions of
attraction, individual preference, and desire; yet the wars relentless
show of authority renders such feelings both futile and dangerous.22 Not
only does war inevitably break apart the bonds of its participants, but its
hierarchical structure and its claims to absolute authority are threatened
by strong friendships between individuals. It is particularly important
for the military establishment to contain close relations among men
because on the surface such ties resemble the exalted version of
comradeship propagated by conventional rhetoric.
Friendship and comradeship are not allied forms, then, but antago-
nists. And it is thus not surprising that far from simply accepting the
ascendant spirit of the battalion or, like Liddell Hart, assuming a
continuum among forms of male fellowship, many war writers describe
a deeply troubling irreconcilability between the intimacy of individuals
and the imperative to participate in a comradeship that subsumes the
individual. David Joness modernist war saga, In Parenthesis, for in-
stance, ruminates on the conflict between private experience and the
power of the group to construct men in its image.23 For Jones, such
power occurs at the level of the human body, as physical proximity
creates new rhythms and sensations among congregated men. The sheer
fact of massed bodies moving in formation threatens to overwhelm the
individuals capacity for singular thought and to reduce him to a
mechanistic cog in a gigantic wheel, as [his] body conformed to these
bodies about.24
Despite Joness interest in the power of the corporate group to alter
male bodies, interiority and personal desire cannot be eradicated:

Feet plodding in each others unseen tread. They said no word but
to direct their immediate next coming, so close behind to blunder, toe
by heel tripping, file-mates; blind on-following, moving with a singular
identity.
Half-minds, far away, divergent, own-thought thinking, tucked away
unknown thoughts; feet following file friends, each his own thought-
maze alone treading; intricate, twist about, own thoughts, all unknown
thoughts, to the next so close following on.25

For all his interest in the way war makes bodies to suit its needs, Jones
remains powerfully Cartesian. The word thought, repeated five times
in the passage, provides the key to the mens individuality; it is a mans
thoughts that are own and unknown, even as the endless file of
bodies seems almost to dominate and appropriate the self. In the

Sarah Cole 477


passage, the terms file-mate and file friend provocatively describe a
form of friendship that is neither entirely personal (because it exists by
virtue of its structure, in a particular geographical and bureaucratic space)
nor entirely impersonal (the words mate and friend indicate a
potential intimacy that may ultimately conflict with group comradeship).
At a broader cultural level, the idea of the unknown warrior, a
product of the First World War that has become firmly embedded in
twentieth-century conceptions of war and mourning, functions for a
mass public somewhat like Joness file friend. In the years immediately
following the armistice, as officials attempted both to accommodate and
to allay a vast demand for appropriate public images of the war, the
notion of an anonymous body that could represent all the wars
casualties (regardless of regiment, rank, or nature of service) provided a
particularly resonant symbol of the homogeneity of death in modern
war. What the unknown soldier offered as a touchstone for public
mourning was a site where the body became generalized, and hence
where universal loss could be engaged as both a personal and a shared
experience. Yet, the anonymity of the unknown soldier points finally to
the utter destruction of individuality in the name of the nation.26 Both
during and after the war, combatants such as Jones searched for a
balancing structure to ward off the eclipse of identity, often turning to
friendship as the most elastic and productive category that neither
elevated nor obliterated the male individual.
One commonif relatively simplestrategy for thwarting the fore-
closure of intimacy involved shifting the terms by which relationships
are valued to privilege the transcendent moment of friendship rather
than long-lasting commitments. Numerous war texts of all generic types
emphasize the small-scale, chance encounter, in which intimacy is
quickly developed, and the men part as rapidly as they had met. If the
war destroys traditional forms of lasting friendship, these texts suggest
that the best way to protect personalized intimacy is to proclaim an
ironic longevity in fleeting encounters and momentary heightenings of
emotion. Thus we often find tender descriptions of passing exchanges
with strangers, moments of generosity, mutuality, and commonalty that
punctuate and transform the torpor of war existence and dispel official
platitudes about comradeship.
Perhaps most fascinating for its attempt to transform the dispersal
and destruction of friendship into a new relational model, in which
chance encounters take precedence over lasting bonds, is an unpub-
lished novel by a soldier in an Australian division, Geoff Hawkins
(writing under the pen name George Falcon). Revellings of Red, which

478 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


takes its very name from a fleeting moment of beauty in the sky, is
entirely organized by the effort to make up for the loss of friendship.
The novel begins as Robert Hilton, having been arbitrarily transferred
to a new battalion, chances upon his original unit, which has been
almost completely reconstituted. Maintaining a powerful attachment to
the mates and friends with whom he originally enlisted, Hilton
engages upon an informal hunt for them, only to find that they have
gradually been killed, wounded, or otherwise dispersed. 27 Thus the text
opens with a futile attempt to return to friendship. After that effort fails,
the novel shifts to a series of essentially unconnected vignettes, most of
which describe men in states of increasing destitution and loneliness.
Even when we witness the instantaneous and poignant development of
intimacy between two men, it is only a matter of paragraphs before one
is killed in battle or simply removed from the others vicinity. The
narrative time scheme, like the plot, highlights the ephemeral and
transitory nature of fellowship.
The relation between the narratives fragmentary form and its originary
crisis of broken friendship is not coincidental: Hawkinss story repre-
sents an attempt to match the structure of a war tale with an overwhelm-
ing crisis in shattered friendship. For Hawkins, the idea of impersonal
comradeship holds no consolation or truth. He insists instead on an
intimacy that develops out of the emotionalindeed almost physical
compatibility of men, arguing that, The camaraderie so much spoken of
. . . was to a large extent superficial. It was only when like met like, with
the magnetic consciousness of true affinity, that there was unguarded
confidence and complete understanding between men in the trenches.28
Yet, despite Hawkinss desire to assert some form of intimate bonding,
he recognizes the inadequacy of personal relations in the face of the
extreme authority and horror of the war, and his text is thus character-
ized as much by the complete failure of any overarching ideal of
community as by moments of intense personal devotion.
Hawkinss unfinished novel lacks a coherent strategy, whether narra-
tive, imagistic, or thematic, for synthesizing its fragmentary parts, yet
these aesthetic and structural shortcomings illustrate the paradox with
which Hawkins struggles: friendship is both everything and nothing in
the war, and the challenge for the writer is to find a language and/or
form in which to reinvigorate the category of male intimacy. Both
popular and canonical poets of the war took on this challenge of
constructing lasting friendshipa goal that the war seems fundamen-
tally to prohibitand ultimately transformed the figure of the shattered
friend into an icon of alienated, suffering masculinity.

Sarah Cole 479


II. THE MAJOR WAR POETS: INTIMACY, ALIENATION, AND AUTHORITY

I begin with Robert Nichols, whose widely read Ardours and Endur-
ances made him one of the most celebrated of the soldier-poets during
the war years.29 Nichols represents a style of poetry that functioned, in
part, to convey an understandable idea of the war to noncombatants,
and his poems are thus replete with images of fearless, noble, self-
sacrificing comrades. His usage of comradeship, like his treatment of
other standard war themes, tends towards an integrative model, where
male bonding fits into a relatively conventional narrative of heroic
idealism.30 In Fulfilment, for instance, Nichols adopts a familiar
strategy of establishing a contrast between heterosexual, romantic love
and the superior love of comrades in war. The closing lines of the poem
firmly reject the poets past adoration of a woman in favor of a de-
personalized image of the dying soldier: Was there love once? I have
forgotten her. / Was their grief once? grief yet is mine. / O loved, living,
dying, heroic soldier, / All, all, my joy, my grief, my love, are thine!31
The contrast between the impoverished status of heterosexual love and
the saturated intimacy of men in war provides the culmination of the
poetic trajectory. Moreover, in these lines, as in the poem more
generally, Nichols establishes what he views to be the most valorous
form of male fellowship: it is comradeship, rather than friendship, since
the loved, living, dying, heroic soldier is a corporate being, a figure for
an anonymous assembly of individuals, a composite entity whose body is
both ever-dying and constantly being replenished.
If Fulfilment seems to posit the possibility of a collective being,
both individual and abstract, who might reconcile the conflict between
rival forms of male bonds, elsewhere Nicholss verse forces an eruption
in this conflict. His poems must work to accommodate disparate
loyalties, attesting to an uneasy sense that competing models of male
companionship abutrather than sustainone another. The tension
between intimacy and impersonality underlies Boy, a lyric that takes
the figure of the killed youth as a vehicle for a rumination on the
meaning and value of being a soldier. The poem utilizes the verb to
frienda relatively common trope in war poetryemphasizing the
way language is defamiliarized and reconstituted by the intimacies of
war.32 To friend indicates at the syntactic level what we also discover
thematically: language itself works to address the urgent need to
imagine new and untested types of friendship.
The poem begins, In a far field, away from England, lies / A Boy I
friended with a care like love, and then goes on to depersonalize the

480 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


narrative, shifting away from mourning one particular death into an
identificatory narrative about soldiering.33 The key turn in the poem
comes when Nichols rejects friendship in favor of comradeship:
Not now as friend, but as a soldier, I
Salute you fallen; for the Soldiers name
Our greatest honour is . . .
...........................
The Soldiers is a name none recognize,
Saving his fellows.

In shifting from friendship to mutual soldiering, the men retire their most
basic identitysignified by the namein favor of an impersonal and
shared form of identification. Although such a move is clearly connected
with a culturally recognized ideal of self-sacrifice (which Nichols highlights
in the next stanza, describing the soldier as the Martyr of a nation), the
poet nevertheless insists that only fellow soldiers can recognize one
another. Nichols asserts an absolute compatibility among soldiers, a
mimetic and complete form of mutual constitution, in comparison with
their distance not only from civilians, but also from concepts, like the
nation, shared by a wider body. Even in death, the soldier remains cut
off from those for whom he allegedly gave his life, so that [d]ying, his
mangled body, to inter it, / He doth bequeath him into comrade hands.
Despite the soldiers apparent fulfillment, the rejection of friendship
has its costs: Lonely he is: he has nor friend nor lover, / Sith in his body
he is dedicate . . . / His comrades only share his life. Comradeship is
supposed to help protect the individual from bereavement, but here to
subscribe to comradeship over friendship and love is, paradoxically, to
accept isolation. Of course, in invoking the stoic, invincible, yet lonely
hero, Nichols recalls a familiar icon in western literature. At the same
time, the poem posits a causal connection between loneliness and the
loss of friendship, and it is this conjunction that most powerfully marks
Boy as a partial challenge to much of the wars consolatory literature.
Because soldiers are endlessly reproducible, they provide a form of
ready-made identity that in war is both necessary and terrifying. Nichols
thus utilizes the idea of the soldier in part to function like Joness file
friend, representing a relational form that provides a measure of
identity and solace at the same time that it remains impersonal and
structural, forcing the man precariously in the direction of alienation.
Finally, Nicholss soldier figure, though disdaining self-promotion
and perhaps even language (Deeds are his flower), is imbued by the
poet with an aura of intense moral authority. His superiority over other

Sarah Cole 481


citizenssignaled by the sacrifice of his individual name for the name
of Soldiermarks him as exemplary, a potential voice for the era, whose
narrative authority is appropriated by the poet. Thus Boy sets in
motion a conjunction of themes that will characterize much of the more
famous poetry of the period: the substitution of male bonds for civilian
models of community and identity; the conflict between friendship and
comradeship, whose resolution organizes the poem; the potential for
alienation; a consolation, in the form of moral and literary superiority.

In Wilfred Owens work, the image of the poet is inextricably linked


with an ethos of sympathy: My subject is War, and the pity of War. / The
poetry is in the pity.34 I have said that friendship is both over-
determined and depleted in war texts; for Owen, the simultaneous
urgency and failure of intimacy creates a profound dilemma, and the
concept of pity is marshaled to allay it. Although Owen at times evinces
a patronizing attitude towards the lower ranks (perhaps the idea of pity
embodies this stance of partial separation and superiority), the thrust of
his poetry aims towards narrowing such gaps and creating a spirit of
unity between the poet and the men he poignantly describes.35 Hence
the wrenching closure of a poem like Disabled, where the voices of
the mutilated former soldier and the poems narrator merge into one,
envisions both a personal bond and a social conscience: How cold and late
it is! Why dont they come / And put him into bed? Why dont they come?
(WO, 153). Through his searing pity for the cold and lonely soldier,
Owen sets up a new intimacy to replace the many lost ties the poem
documents. This usage of tonal pathos and shared voice to create an
ideal of friendship marks nearly all of Owens poetry; it is his hallmark.
Greater Love presents perhaps the most complete elaboration of
the pity ideal, set against impoverished civilian conventions for repre-
senting love. The greater love of the title refers to the Biblical dictum,
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends (John 15.13). This Christian ideal of self-sacrifice is further
bolstered by a comparison between soldierly love and the slender
attitude of traditional romantic discourse:
Red lips are not so red
As the stained stones kissed by the English dead.
Kindness of wooed and wooer
Seems shame to their love pure.
O Love, your eyes lose lure
When I behold eyes blinded in my stead!
(WO, 143)

482 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


The theme of the greater love is common in war verse (as in Nicholss
Fulfilment) and suggests a parallel with the fierce defense of com-
rade-love, depicted as superior to other forms of desire and commit-
ment, propounded in homoerotic writing of the fin de sicle. Like Wilde
at the close of his trial, or John Addington Symonds in his defense of
homosexual love (A Problem in Greek Ethics, 1883), such texts cel-
ebrated male intimacy by valorizing its purity, spirituality, and elevated
nature, which seemed to offer a protected sphere for the beloved body.36
If such a discourse arises in part to protect the homosexual body from
incipient threat, the male body in the trenchesconsistently and
absolutely under siegeis even more precariously situated. To tran-
scend the physical, as propounded by the comradely ideal, might offer
an image of masculine desire that escapes the mutilation, dismember-
ment, and filth that characterized the bodys existence on the front.
Yet Owens Greater Love celebrates personal intimacy rather than
comradeship, andperhaps inevitablyfriendship returns the body
into the actual, mortal world. Further, we need to be careful in our
assessment of the poems homosexual claims, since syntactically, the
texts structure complicates simple binaries. In the above passage, the
love pure does not refer directly to the love of soldiers for one another,
but to the intimacy of the dead body with the land (or, later, the
corporeal chest with artillery, full like hearts made great with shot
[WO, 143]). Thus Owen stresses that the pathos of the physical body
reaches its apex neither in heterosexual conventions nor in the spirit of
comradeship, but at the moment of dismemberment and death. Rather
than operate along the axis of homo/hetero, Greater Love indicates
that the very concept of physical intimacy is shattered by war, and to
represent it accurately requires that the poet construct a language that
breaks free of standard oppositions.
Indeed at each moment of comparison in the poem, the love that rises
above all others derives from the poets language of scorching sympathy.
So far does Owens horribly exact vocabulary exceed all other forms of
languagewith lines like Now earth has stopped their piteous mouths
that coughed (WO, 143)that we are asked, I think, to question the
value of any competing model of romantic discourse, including state-
ments like greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his
life for his friends. The only stable division that Owen establishes in the
poem is between his own capacity to voice an intimate and explosive pity
for the wars victims and all who are outside of that relation, including
those who tout the greater love. A sense of despair animates the poem,
an intense desire to make permanent the ephemeral intimacy of war, as

Sarah Cole 483


the poet privileges his own voice of fierce and futile love over other
forms that purport to represent desire, intimacy, or male community.
Despite his efforts to create friendship through pity, Owen offers no
simple strategy to replace the broken ideals of either romantic love or
heroic comradeship. In Strange Meeting, for instance, the speaker
delineates a number of different possibilities for thinking about bonds
between men, which both entail and surpass the model of transcendent
sympathy. The poem begins in the ambiguous, womb-like space of a
dream: It seemed that out of battle I escaped / Down some profound
dull tunnel, long since scooped / Through granites which titanic wars
had groined. As the speaker wanders further into the trench-like
tunnel, the narrator comes upon a ghost figure whose speech registers
the waste of war, The pity of war, the pity war distilled. The dead mans
voice clearly echoes the speaker/poets perspective, and this doubling of
voice creates a community in suffering. The thrust of the speakers
narrative is to express commonalty with the poet, to become his kindred
spirit: Whatever hope is yours, / Was my life also (WO, 125).
The twist, of course, comes when we and the narrator learn the
identity of this strange friend: I am the enemy you killed, my friend
(WO, 126). What is dramatized at this moment of recognitionboth
shocking and expectedis that the normal assumptions about friend-
ship have been radically altered by the war. If enemy and friend
conventionally function as opposites, here they become near-relatives,
as the axis of male relations shifts. Combatant men might be structurally
opposed (one could not proclaim comradeship across enemy lines), but
the possibilities for identification and even love proliferate, as the men
experience an ambiguous closeness that resists categorization.37
Perhaps more than any other of Owens poems, Strange Meeting
connects a particular image of male intimacy with the moral authority to
speak. The dead German expresses a conscience not just for England,
but for the whole of western militaristic culture. Owens languagewith
its jarring pararhymes, its epic imagery, and its simultaneous pathos and
angersears through the platitudes of popular rhetoric about war and
nations, and it is this quality of exposure that has lent the poem its
powerful stance of authority, both within its own setting and as an avatar
of modernism. Just as the tunnel has been groined by titanic wars,
and the earth scooped to create it, so too does the concept of
excavation characterize the voice of this strange friend: the man who
speaks a European conscience is explicitly brought forthor bornout
of the complex community of war friendship. Strange Meeting, then,
accomplishes a primary goal of much war writing, as it develops a

484 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


language for the intimacy of war that relies neither on celebrating
impersonal comradeship nor on mourning the endless loss of individual
friends. Of course, Strange Meeting is remarkable for its liminality, its
dreamscape atmosphere, and its status on the threshold between fantasy
and lived reality. In other texts, Owen attempts to find a friendship
language within a more recognizably real setting and context.
His most deliberate and straightforward analysis of the bonds of war
comes in Apologia Pro Poemate Meo, a lyric that confidently asserts
the enormity and superiority of the intimacy formed by war. Though it
opens on a strong note of individuality (I, too, saw God through mud),
Apologia quickly moves into a depiction of all-encompassing male
community, once again contrasted with a conventionalized and belea-
guered heterosexual norm:
I have made fellowships
Untold of happy loves in old song.
For love is not the binding of fair lips
With the soft silk of eyes that look and long,

By Joy, whose ribbon slips,


But wound with wars hard wire whose stakes are strong;
Bound with the bandage of the arm that drips;
Knit in the webbing of the rifle-thong.
I have perceived much beauty
In the hoarse oaths that kept our courage straight;
Heard music in the silentness of duty;
Found peace where shell-storms spouted reddest spate.
(WO, 101)

Apologias language blurs the distinction between comradeship and


friendship, as the depersonalized forms of organized comradeship
become infused with a spirit of personal connection and intimacy. To
make sense of this slippage among apparently oppositional images of
male fellowship requires an understanding of Owens treatment of ritual
and ceremony.
Clearly, the idea of a formal system (an oath, a pledge) for structuring
fellowship holds strong appeal in the poem. Owen substitutes the signs
of war for conventional romantic imagery, as the domestic tradition of
the marital bond is transformed into a virile performance of military
duties. However, Owen stops short of reproducing the wars typical
apologetics of horror redeemed by comradeship; while his Apologia
retains a sense of the ritualized spirit that accrues to corporate comrade-
ship, he also insists on the immediacy of individual existence. Owen

Sarah Cole 485


effects this fusion of the personal with the impersonal through his
iconography of the human body. Each element in the fellowship ideal is
condensed into an aspect of the physical landscape, and each has a
counterpart at the level of the vulnerable male body. The wounded arm
wrapped with a bloody bandage; the winding of endless coils of barbed
wire; the very throat, tired and hoarse, uttering an oath: these images
combine a focus on the body-as-tableau with a stress on the exhaustion
of the physical body at work. Owen never allows the reader to lose sight
of individual soldiers doing the work of war, as he transforms abstract or
ceremonial concepts like loyalty, vulnerability, and comradeship into
immediate details of daily, physical existence.38
Owens use of the physical as a repository for the institutional can be
viewed as a kind of counter-discourse in his poetry.39 Unwilling to adopt
the value systems associated with such institutions as the church and
conventional love poetry, and defiant of their authority over the realms
they purport to control, Owen develops a system for transforming their
iconography into his own. Perhaps the most striking tension animating
Owens poetry is the conflict between the intense experience of inti-
macy, often registered through the idea of pity, and the massive
impersonality of war, its structures (including comradeship), and, at a
wider level, all forms of conventional ritual. In Apologia, Owen
mobilizes a counter-discursive strategy in order to envisage an escape
from the impasse created by the wars overwhelming impersonality.
When the poet proclaims that he has made fellowships more powerful
than those in old song, and that new rituals ensure the longevity of
war-time masculine relations, he attempts to freeze the idea of friend-
ship just before it is hijacked by the corporate structure of war. Owens
work moves continuously across the landscape of male relations, as each
poem strives to find a Keatsian moment of balance between absolute
intimacy, and therefore vulnerability, and the erasure of the individual.
By infusing the body itself with the power of culture, Owen hopes to
realize male intimacyto solidify and sanctify itwithout relying on
the depersonalizing attitudes of the military.
To stabilize friendship is, for Owen, to erect a bulwark against
alienation. If we return, for instance, to Disabled, we can see that the
poets pity, his imaginative merging with the lonely soldier, provides the
survivor with his sole hopehowever meagerfor solace. Owens
poetry teems with figures who exist on the verge of desperate isolation,
and it is through the idea of poetic sympathy that Owen effects at least
momentary images of community and consolation. There are times,
however, when Owen depicts war community as a form of isolation in

486 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


numbers, producing images of fellowship that also suggest a potential
slide into solitary existence.40 The precarious intimacy of war may
represent the soldiers only hope, but such unity also involves a dark
foreboding: the very closeness achieved by combatants, set against the
edifice of home community, portends disastrous consequences for the
soldiers, both in terms of their loss of one another and in relation to
civilian life.
Smile, Smile, Smile, a deeply ironic poem about the criminal idiocy
of the press, describes an uneasy community of men that is both entirely
self-constituted and perilously situated on the verge of disintegration.
The poem opens with a tableau of wounded men reading an inaccurate
news story, and it is their ironic smile that the poem elaborates:
Head to limp head, the sunk-eyed wounded scanned
Yesterdays Mail . . .
............................
The half-limbed readers did not chafe
But smiled at one another curiously
Like secret men who knew their secret safe.
(WO, 167) 41

Owens picture of the sunk-eyed wounded leaning together head to


limp head and his use of the vocabulary of secrecy has a layered effect.
The image of the group of men in a posture of physical interdependence
provides a visual picture that captures the complexity of war intimacy,
indicating the complete attachment of the men to one another, but also
resisting easy categorization, as they touch one another at perhaps the
least erotic of physical locations.42
If the text alienates the reader in part by insisting on the impossibility
of communication across the military/civilian gap, its persistent lan-
guage of secrecy hints also at a familiar homosexual iconography. In
Smile, the words curious and secret recall a form of closeted
language but at the same time point to an intimacy among the men that,
once again, has no clear counterpart in civilian life. Their intimacy is
formed by their very mutilation, and of course by their marginalization
with respect to noncombatant culture, signified most palpably by their
hostility to the Mail. Home life is presented here monolithically,
indicating no room for alternative cultures that might embrace or
parallel the community in the poem. If the physical body effects a union
among these men, it is a tragic union in dismemberment, a form of
mutual dependence and shared incapacity.43

Sarah Cole 487


Owens poetry powerfully suggests the problem of marginalization
and isolation, but the poets commitment to finding a language for
institutionalized intimacy generally wards off the threat of solipsism. In
Sassoons verse, by contrast, an increasingly close and causal connection
develops between war intimacy and the experience of alienation.
Sassoon shares with Owen an interest (however futile) in documenting,
characterizing, and making permanent the wars masculine ties. Yet,
where Owen hopes to sanctify and solidify friendship through a combi-
nation of poetic pity and the organization of intimacy, Sassoons work
focuses unflinchingly on the simultaneous overdetermination and de-
struction of friendship, a conflict that tends to resist resolution or
domestication. For Sassoon, who rejects the ideal of impersonal com-
radeship and stresses the wars assault on personal intimacy, the agony of
lost friendship becomes the psychic and social centerpiece of male
existence and the moral touchstone for the poets voice. Thus it is in his
poetry that we find the most complete articulation of a movement away
from nineteenth-century beliefs about heroic comradeship, into an ideal
of friendship, and finally into a self-proclaimed language of modernity.
Offering perhaps the most striking combination of lost friendship,
alienation, and literary authority is The Poet as Hero, a lyric first
published in December 1916 (a time of palpable post-Somme embitter-
ment). The text depicts and seeks to explain the poets rejection of
romantic themes and values, in favor of an angry poetry, Mocking and
loathing War. The narrator posits a civilian interlocutor, puzzled and
threatened by the new and jarring tone: youve asked me why / Of my old,
silly sweetness Ive repented / My ecstacies changed to an ugly cry. In
defending his own poetic material and style, the speaker at once estab-
lishes his version of an appropriate war mentality, places lost friendship
at the center of that psychic and cultural position, and connects the
condition of bitter friendship-loss with his own poetic mission:
But now Ive said good-bye to Galahad,
And am no more the knight of dreams and show:
For lust and senseless hatred make me glad,
And my killed friends are with me where I go.
Wound for red wound I burn to smite their wrongs;
And there is absolution in my songs.
(SS, 61)

Like Owen and Nichols, Sassoon sets the relations of war against civilian
conventions, both literary and social. The Arthurian model of romantic
warrior hero is replaced by a violent, antisocial combatant, who takes
pleasure in the very destructiveness that has created him. Nevertheless,
488 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War
as Adrian Caesar argues in his piercing critique of the war poets,
Sassoons poem reconstitutes a number of traditional values associated
with both Christianity and militarism.44 The final couplets elevation of
revenge and religious absolution is chilling in part because it recalls
the very language of heroic war that Sassoon purports to abhor.
However, rather than follow Caesar in condemning Sassoons ostensi-
bly anti-war poem for its absorption of military standards, I want to
stress the relation between the poems violent narrator and his killed
friends, for it is in the conjunction of friendship and alienation that
Sassoon locates the crux of his poetic consciousness. The use of the
word killed, in place of more conventional terms like dead or
fallen, has the effect of emphasizing the moment of violent death,
maintaining a sense of immediacy in loss. The men who have died are,
for the speaker, always being killed, always in the act of crossing the life
/death divide that, as Eric Leed has argued, became dangerously fluid
during the war. The Poet as Hero takes as a premise the impossibility
of mourning during the war; yet instead of attempting to forget his dead
mates, the combatant persistently relives the moment of lost friendship,
carrying with him an increasing weight of intimacy that cannot be
relinquished.45
The poem paints a fearsome picture of a New Man, for whom lust
and senseless hatred are legitimized by the outrage of wrecked
intimacy, and whose passionate desires and ecstacies are entirely
motivated by war. Moreover, the poem proclaims its own moral legiti-
macy: if there is absolution in my songs, it is not solely because the
poet has suffered, but more specifically because he has become the
mouthpiece for his killed friends. The speakers voice thus obtains
absolution from a continued connection with a host of dead male
friends, much as comradeship was often said (in more conventional
writing) to redeem the suffering of war. If impersonal comradeship
had worked to sanctify not only male relations but the war itself, here
intimate friendship takes on the mantle of legitimization, but the
difference is marked: when personalized male intimacy becomes the
centerpiece of emotional existence and poetic justification, the figure
who emerges carries with him an unbearable load of pain (since, as we
have seen, friendship exists in war only to be destroyed), a self-
consciously alienated attitude, and a voice of self-justification that will
brook no opposition.
The Poet as Hero stridently asserts a new poetic consciousness for
the soldier who has been created by the loss of friends; in other poems,
this figure seems less a promoter of a confident, new style than a

Sarah Cole 489


haunted survivor, whose future assimilation into civilian life will be
highly problematic.46 The poem Memory, for instance, written two
years later, uses more chastened language to make a similar statement
about poetic voice and the death of friends. The poem looks back
nostalgically to the poets privileged youth in the countryside (elabo-
rated by Sassoon in the first part of his autobiographical trilogy, Memoirs
of a Fox-Hunting Man), contrasting those lost pleasures with his
current, and presumably permanent, state of sorrow: When I was
young my heart and head were light, / And I was gay and feckless as a
colt / Out in the fields, with morning in the may, / Wind on the grass,
wings in the orchard bloom. In a movement that typifies Great War
literature, the text shifts dramatically after the first stanza, where youth,
innocence, and beauty had found a home in the English countryside, to
be crushed by the suffering and irony of the war. The second stanza thus
begins, But now my heart is heavy-laden. I sit / Burning my dreams
away beside the fire: / For death has made me wise and bitter and
strong; / And I am rich in all that I have lost (SS, 117). Sassoons
strategy here is conventional, as he contrasts the open, free, outdoor life
of youth with an interior (and interiorized) maturity formed by the
knowledge of death. In romantic terms, Sassoon transforms the tragedy
of growing up, Blakes experience, into the material for poetry.
Wisdom, bitterness, and strength combine to create not only an image
of masculinity appropriate to Sassoons notion of war-torn modernity,
but also of poetic accomplishment. The poets authoritative statement,
And I am rich in all that I have lost, establishes his credentials as a
speaker and as a man precisely in the loss of the first stanzas innocence.
The last four lines of the poem add an even more staggering loss to
the demise of idealized home, country, and confident ethos: O starshine
on the fields of long-ago, / Bring me the darkness and the nightingale; /
Dim wealds of vanished summer, peace of home,/ And silence; and the
faces of my friends (SS, 117). Hailing a Keatsian darkness and
nightingale, the poet continues his romantic troping, and the tone of the
last phrase, the faces of my friends, is much less aggressive or
immediate than we have seen in other texts. Yet the line, with its
evocation of the crisis that has made the poet into a perpetual mourner,
nevertheless shakes the edifice so smoothly established. Having taken on
the mantle of romantic poet, the writer now indicates what differentiates
this war text from its precursor lyrics in the nineteenth century, as the
death of friends becomes the essential material that constitutes the new
self. It is, finally, the faces of lost friends that drive the poet to write. If
modernism here defines itself as the heir to romanticism, it nevertheless

490 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


asserts its own refusal to be healed by memory, rigidly maintaining its
claim of primacy in suffering, and leaving us, like the poet himself, with
the permanent echo of intensified and broken intimacy.
III. POST-WAR ARTICULATIONS: LOST FRIENDS AND THE LOST
GENERATION

The paradigm of alienated poet as war-torn friend had a lasting


impact on post-war culture and helped to determine the shape of much
of the eras most influential literature. In a 1926 poem entitled To One
Who was With Me in the War, Sassoon provides resonant language to
articulate his view of the relation between war friendship and the
alienated, post-war consciousness: It was too long agothe Company
we served with . . . / We call it back in visual fragments, you and I, / Who
seem, ourselves, like relics casually preserved (SS, 151, ellipses in
original). Familiar modernist tropes abound herefragmentation, his-
torical disjunction, the substitution of visual for narrative logic, alien-
ation, a painful awareness of the individuals precariousness in the
machine of modern lifeand are firmly connected with the problem
both of intense personal intimacy (you and I) and of lost community
(the company that cannot be reassembled). The poem goes on to
demonstrate the mens continued immersion in a war mentality that
compulsively transfigures the peaceful English landscape into no-mans-
land, the calm of home life into the explosiveness of battle. Finally, the
poem ends with a typically modernist moment of uncertainty and
fracture,Whats that you said?as the mens shared consciousness
becomes punctured by their post-war surroundings (SS, 152).
To One Who was With Me in the War follows other war lyrics in
simultaneously positing as the relics of war both the alienated indi-
vidual and the mutually sustaining small group (here reduced to a
couple). Just as the lone soldier was defined during the war in
conjunction with images of precarious community, so the post-war
image of the ever-grieving former soldier will be associated with the
idea of the lost generation. The notion of the lost generation is
sufficiently familiar to require little elaboration, yet it is useful to
highlight both parts of the conjunction: lost (conjuring up images of
alienation, solipsism, brokenness, as well as death) and generation
(suggesting community, shared identity, intimacy, and perhaps also
reproduction, a new generating force).
As Joanna Bourke has convincingly argued, the vast majority of men
who fought on the Western Front eagerly returned home with the
intention of (re)constituting domestic ties. She thus casts doubt on the

Sarah Cole 491


historical value of such concepts as the lost generation and the alienated
veteran. However, my concern here is not with the historical or
statistical accuracy of these images, but rather with their importance for
the modernist literary and cultural imagination, what Samuel Hynes
calls the myth of the war.47 Indeed, I want to suggest that in the two
decades following the war, many noncombatant writers, whose ambiva-
lence about the war and its soldiers is often palpable, imaged post-war
alienation as a product of the wars assault on male intimacy. One might
point, for instance, to Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway, to many of D. H.
Lawrences novels, and to Vera Brittains Testament of Youth, as particu-
larly important explorations of the way broken war friendship was
transformed into a wider cultural formula for envisioning and expressing
loss.48
Let me close with another such exemplary text, T. S. Eliots The
Hollow Men, a lyric which directly transforms the simultaneous
intransigence and failure of male friendship into the material for
modernism. Published in 1925, The Hollow Men has consistently
been viewed as both characteristic and determinative of modernism:
beginning with its Conradian epigraph (Mistah Kurtzhe dead) the
poem depicts experience as a series of utterly fragmented and dissoci-
ated shards, where the flotsam and jetsam of religion, history, popular
language, and human garbage intermingle to create a consciousness that
exists on the boundary between dreaming and waking, death and life.49
Moreover, the geography and thematics of the war abound in the poem,
which is set at once in an abstract landscape of modern reality and in a
schematized, distilled version of the Western Front.
Yet what makes The Hollow Men so accurate as a reenactment of
Great War subjectivity is its emphasis on the hollow mens alienation
within their very intimacy. The poem speaks relentlessly in a we voice,
and its language of intimacy closely echoes images we have seen, for
instance, in Owens verse:
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

492 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to deaths other Kingdom
Remember usif at allnot as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
(1-18)

The opening image of the men leaning together, with a suggestion both
of pathos and caricature, conjures up familiar pictures of knots of
soldiers in postures of careless intimacy. It is an image that powerfully
excludes the viewer, who cannot partake of their silent sign system, and
it thus establishes a problem of distance not only for the former troops,
but also between reader and subject. Relatedly, the impasse of inex-
pressibility, which has been a major theme in war literature, profoundly
characterizes the hollow men, whose dried voices . . . are quiet and
meaningless. Their ineffectual whispers become an expression of sad
futility, a symbol for both the specific plight of war veterans, and, at the
same time, for the universal inadequacy of language, a familiar modern-
ist fixation.
Eliot captures in these opening lines the paradox of war intimacy, as
the men remain both absolutely interconnected and absolutely alone. If
the hollow men cannot be conceived as individuals outside of their
corporate existence, they nevertheless radiate an intense self-absorp-
tion, represented by the inadequacy of their speech, the failure of their
actions (paralysed force), and their slow erasure from human memory.
Eliots poem grapples with the complexity of war intimacy, which at
times seems purely structurala byproduct of the sheer assembly of
bodiesyet is also constitutive of individuality itself. The men in the
poem are formed equally by their proximity to one another and by the
extreme power of their own depleted interiority. Hence, the poems
imagery oscillates between eyes, where one expects to find the locus of
individual experience (The eyes are not here / There are no eyes here
. . . Sightless, unless / The eyes reappear [51-52, 61-62]) and linked
bodies (In this last of meeting places / We grope together / And avoid
speech / Gathered on this beach of the tumid river [57-60]). Eliots text
moves back and forth between oppositional states of alienation and
intimacy, stressing the impossibility of achieving the kind of stability in
friendship for which poets like Owen had striven.

Sarah Cole 493


At the same time, rather than allow the poem to accommodate a
transcendent male intimacy, Eliot offers his poetic language as a stand-
in for that missed resolution. The voices of the soldiers gradually expire,
and the poet provides a new lexicon to recreate and amplify the mens
experience of isolation in numbers. Thus as the poem moves towards its
close, the voices and visual pictures of the hollow men disappear, giving
way to a new series of interspersed and broken narratives. If the status
of the bereaved friend provided authority for the war poet, that
authority has now been absorbed and appropriated by Eliots poem
itself. As their very existence becomes increasingly untenable in a post-
war culture that inevitably erases them, the whispered silences of the
hollow men are replaced by the patchwork of narrative fragments
known as modernism.
Columbia University
NOTES
1
B. H. Liddell Hart, Foreword to Twelve Days, by Sidney Rogerson (London:
Barker, 1933), viii.
2
A few words about my methodology in this essay. First, this paper offers very little
by way of biography. I am interested less in the personal friendships of individual war
writers than in a widely conceived discourse about male relations during and after the
war, and in the way particular images of male friendship and its failure came to be
absorbed in/as modernism. Second, I have limited my discussion primarily to the
western front (France and Belgium), because it was in that arena that the most enduring
images of the war were created. Among primary sources, I discuss canonical poetry and
memoirs by writers such as Owen and Sassoon; published poetry, fiction, and memoirs
that no longer command significant readership; and unpublished manuscript material
from the Imperial War Museum, London.
3
The critical tradition surrounding the war can be divided into a relatively neat binary
scheme, with Paul Fussells classic exposition of the war as a series of ironic disjunctions
standing at the head of the dominant tradition, while a diverse array of recent scholars
have begun to question central Fussellian premises. See Paul Fussell, The Great War
and Modern Memory (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1975). Critics generally accept
Fussells claims about such topics as irony, disillusionment, inexpressibility, homoerotics,
and the literary legacy of the war (for a near paraphrase of Fussells points, see Martin
Taylor, Introduction to his Lads: Love Poetry of the Trenches [London: Constable,
1989]). In my discussion, I will rely on many of Fussells insights, especially as
developed in Soldier Boys (Fussell, 270-309). Because his arguments have been so
well incorporated into critical discourse, I will generally assume familiarity with
standard themes such as those listed above.
For incisive anti-Fussellian work, see Michael C. C. Adams, The Great Adventure:
Male Desire and the Coming of World War I (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990);
Joanna Bourke, Dismembering the Male: Mens Bodies, Britain and the Great War
(Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1996); Adrian Caesar, Taking it Like a Man:
Suffering, Sexuality and the War Poets: Brooke, Sassoon, Owen, Graves (Manchester:

494 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


Manchester Univ. Press, 1993); and Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The
Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995).
For an encyclopedic account of the war years that directly addresses the way writers
situated themselves oppositionally as traditionalists or as modern, as patriotic, or as anti-
war, see Samuel Hynes, A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture
(London: The Bodley Head, 1990).
For the seminal text on gender politics and the war, see Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan
Gubar, No Mans Land: The Place of the Woman Writer in the Twentieth-Century, vol.
2, Sexchanges (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1989). See also Allyson Booth, Postcards
from the Trenches: Negotiating the Space Between Modernism and the First World War
(New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1996); Dorothy Goldman, Jane Gledhill, and Judith
Hattaway, Women Writers and the Great War (New York: Twayne, 1995); Behind the
Lines: Gender and the Two World Wars, ed. Margaret Randolph Higonnet, Jane
Jenson, Sonya Michel, and Margaret Collins Weitz (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press,
1987); James Longenbach, The Women and Men of 1914, in Arms and the Woman:
War, Gender, and Literary Representation, ed. Helen M. Cooper, Adrienne Auslander
Munich, and Susan Merrill Squier (Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1989),
97-123; Jane Marcus, The Asylums of Antaeus: Women, War, and MadnessIs there
a Feminist Fetishism? in The New Historicism, ed. H. Aram Veeser (New York:
Routledge, 1989), 132-51; Marcus, Corpus/Corps/Corpse: Writing the Body in/at
War, in Arms and the Woman, 124-67; Laura Stempel Mumford, May Sinclairs The
Tree of Heaven: The Vortex of Feminism, the Community of War, in Arms and the
Woman, 168-83; Trudi Tate, Modernism, History and the First World War (Manches-
ter: Manchester Univ. Press, 1998); Claire Tylee, The Great War and Womens
Consciousness: Images of Militarism and Womanhood in Womens Writing, 1914-1964
(London: Macmillan, 1990).
Finally, an important study by Eric Leed has been exceptionally influential, especially
with regard to the psychology of the war (No Mans Land: Combat and Identity in
World War I [Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1979]). Leed argues that the war
created a crisis of boundaries for combatants, as basic categories such as life and death,
self and other, became fundamentally unstable; he further describes a defensive war
mentality, linking the specific nature of combat in the First World War with the long-
term psychological condition of combatants.
4
Siegfried Sassoon, The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon, ed. Rupert Hart-Davis
(London: Faber, 1983), 61. Hereafter abbreviated SS and cited parenthetically by page
number.
5
Two texts that address the masculinism of canonical modernism are The Gender of
Modernism: A Critical Anthology, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott (Bloomington: Indiana Univ.
Press, 1990); and Scott, Refiguring Modernism, 2 vols. (Bloomington: Indiana Univ.
Press, 1995).
For theorizations of modernism that are particularly productive in cutting across
gender categories, see Joseph Allen Boone, Libidinal Currents: Sexuality and the
Shaping of Modernity (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1998); Marianne DeKoven,
Rich and Strange: Gender, History, Modernism (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press,
1991); Christopher Lane, The Ruling Passion: British Colonial Allegory and the Paradox
of Homosexual Desire (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1995); Elaine Showalter, Sexual
Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Sicle (London: Bloomsbury, 1991); and
Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives (Chicago: Univ.
of Chicago Press, 1990). Two anthologies that reflect a recent interest in modernism as

Sarah Cole 495


a phenomenon linked with gender flux are: Queer Forster, ed. Robert K. Martin and
George Piggford (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1997); and Novel Gazing: Queer
Readings in Fiction, ed. Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1997).
6
Elsewhere I have discussed the relation between male intimacy and alienation as a
product of a shift in imperial ideology, focusing on the highly canonical Heart of
Darkness. See Conradian Alienation and Imperial Intimacy, Modern Fiction Studies
44 (1998): 251-81.
7
I am borrowing, of course, from Eve Sedgwicks classic study, Between Men: English
Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1985).
8
For several representativeif diverseexamples of this kind of theoretical ap-
proach, see Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity
(New York: Routledge, 1990); Christopher Newfield, Democracy and Male Homo-
eroticism, The Yale Journal of Criticism 6:2 (1993): 29-62; Carole-Anne Tyler, Boys
Will be Girls: The Politics of Gay Drag, in Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories,
ed. Diana Fuss (New York: Routledge, 1991), 32-70; and Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum
a Grave? October 43 (1987): 197-222.
9
R. G. Dixon, The Wheels of Darkness, collection 92/36/1, 32, Imperial War
Museum, London. All material from the Imperial War Museum comes from the World
War One collections and is hereafter abbreviated IWM and cited by collection name
(usually the name of the writer) as it appears in the catalogue. Since the Museum does
not have any consistent cataloguing system, document names, collection numbers, and
page numbers are included where they exist.
10
Dixon, 88.
11
Fussell (among others) has discussed in detail the trope of inexpressibility, and I
focus here only on its relation to comradeship.
12
See Fussell; Taylor; Caesar; Kaja Silverman, Male Subjectivity at the Margins (New
York: Routledge, 1992), 299-338; and George Chauncey, Jr., Christian Brotherhood or
Sexual Perversion? Homosexual Identities and the Construction of Sexual Boundaries in
the World War One Era, Journal of Social History 19 (1985): 189-206.
13
Frederic Manning, Her Privates We (London: Davies, 1930), 143-44.
14
D. H. Lawrences Kangaroo, set in Australia in the aftermath of the war, focuses on
the Australian reverence for war mateship. For discussion of war fellowship in the
Australian context, see Stephen Garton, The Cost of War: Australians Return (Melbourne:
Oxford Univ. Press, 1996); Bill Gammage, The Broken Years: Australian Soldiers in the
Great War (Canberra: Australian National Univ. Press, 1974); Alistair Thomson, Anzac
Memories: Living with the Legend (Melbourne: Oxford Univ. Press, 1994); and Marilyn
Lake, Mission Impossible: How Men Gave Birth to the Australian NationNational-
ism, Gender, and Other Seminal Acts, Gender and History 4 (1992): 305-22.
15
Captain Edward Frederick Chapman, Letter, October 1916, 92/3/1, 32, IWM.
16
A. G. Meacham, The Spirit of a Division, in The Dagger, November 1918, 16,
IWM.
17
For detailed discussion of the war and the public schools, see Peter Parker, The Old
Lie: The Great War and the Public-School Ethos (London: Constable, 1987); see also
Adams; Caesar; Taylor; and Alan Wilkinson, The Church of England and the First
World War (London: SPCK, 1978). For an interesting contemporary account of
aristocratic Britain which argues that the ruling class essentially killed itself off through
its commitment to the war effort, see Charles F. G. Masterman, England After War
(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1923), 27-47.

496 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


For broader discussions of masculinity and the public schools, see James Eli Adams,
Dandies and Desert Saints: Styles of Victorian Manhood (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press,
1995); Maurizia Boscagli, Eye on the Flesh: Fashions of Masculinity in the Early
Twentieth Century (Boulder: Westview, 1996); Ed Cohen, The Double Lives of Man:
Narration and Identification in Late Nineteenth-Century Representations of Ec-centric
Masculinities, in Cultural Politics at the Fin de Sicle, ed. Sally Ledger and Scott
McCracken (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995), 85-114; Richard Dellamora,
Masculine Desire: The Sexual Politics of Victorian Aestheticism (Chapel Hill: Univ. of
North Carolina Press, 1990); Linda Dowling, Hellenism and Homosexuality in Victorian
Oxford (Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press, 1994); Lesley Higgins, Jowett and Pater: Traffick-
ing in Platonic Wares, Victorian Studies 37 (1993): 43-72; Michael Kane, Modern Men:
Mapping Masculinity in English and German Literature, 1880-1930 (London: Cassell,
1999); Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America: 1800-
1940, ed. J. A. Mangan and James Walvin (Manchester: Manchester Univ. Press, 1984);
Ruth Robbins, A Very Curious Construction: Masculinity and the Poetry of A. E.
Housman and Oscar Wilde, in Manliness and Morality, 137-59; Sedgwick, Epistemol-
ogy of the Closet (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1990); Herbert Sussman,
Victorian Masculinities: Manhood and Masculine Poetics in Early Victorian Literature
and Art (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995); Norman Vance, The Sinews of the
Spirit: The Ideal of Christian Manliness in Victorian Literature and Religious Thought
(Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1985).
18
J. M. Rose-Troup, Harrows Honour, in The Muse in Arms, ed. E. B. Osborn
(New York: Stokes, 1917), 177.
19
Robert Graves is one important writer who, though ordinarily read as an angry anti-
war figure, in fact was persuaded that impersonal institutions provide the most desirable
models for structuring military loyalty. Although his famous memoir, Goodbye to All
That, bristles with irony and bitterness, the text nevertheless depicts Graves zealously
turning to the regiment and battalion as safe and effective locales for his personal
commitments. Even his famous friendship with Sassoon is heavily determined by their
shared regimental status in the Royal Welch Fusiliers. See Graves, Goodbye to All That
(New York: Cape, 1930). For a biographical discussion of Graves and Sassoon, see
Patrick Quinn, The Great War and the Missing Muse: The Early Writings of Robert
Graves and Sieg fried Sassoon (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna Univ. Press, 1994). For a
thorough discussion of Graves homoerotic self-conflict, which impinges on his adher-
ence to traditional male institutions, see Caesar.
20
As C. E. Montague writes in his exegesis of the wars myriad disillusionments, Two
million men can never be a happy few; nor yet a band of brothers. You have to know a
brother first (Disenchantment [London: Chatto, 1922], 30).
21
W. B. Henderson, Memoir, IWM.
22
Joanna Bourke is one of the few scholars whose conclusions about the wars
destruction of friendship mirror my own. Bourke believes that in appraising the
importance of comradeship in war, we need to view what I have characterized as an
assault on friendship alongside the mens own ambivalence about male bonds. For
Bourke, to understand these two checks on comradeship is to reevaluate the importance
of male intimacy for individual soldiers and for post-war culture. In his study of wars
testimonial voices, Samuel Hynes also briefly suggests a fundamental problem attached
to the instability of male bonds (The Soldiers Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War
[New York: Penguin, 1997], 9-10).

Sarah Cole 497


23
For a broad study of modernism that focuses on the conflict between individuality
and the possibility of relinquishing the sovereign self, see Michael Levenson, Modern-
ism and the Fate of Individuality (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991).
24
David Jones, In Parenthesis (London: Faber, 1937), 123.
25
Jones, 37.
26
The topic of memorializing, commemoration, and, more broadly, memory, has
blossomed in recent years. For analysis of memorials and memorializing in the British
First World War context, see Booth; Bourke; Thomas Laqueur, Memory and Naming
in the Great War, in Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, ed. John R.
Gillis (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1994), 150-67; and Winter.
27
Captain G. O. Hawkins, Revellings of Red, by George Falcon, IWM.
28
Hawkins, 247.
29
In an attempt to explain both the popularity and the canonicity of First World War
poetry (as distinct from fiction or drama), critics have pointed to several factors,
including logistical problems for the writer, the fragmentary and intensive nature of the
experience, and long-standing traditions of using the lyric to write about war (in the
form of elegy, for instance).
30
Other themes that mark this poetic style include: a romanticization of the outdoor
life of war; nostalgia for England and the English countryside; the continuity between
school and war (as we have seen); paying tribute to dead friends; and the spiritual
consolations of self-sacrifice.
31
Robert Nichols, Ardours and Endurances (London: Chatto, 1918), 44.
32
Although the OED cites examples of the verb to friend for several preceding
centuries, its use is dramatically increased within the war corpus.
33
Boy, in Nichols, 48-49.
34
Preface to The Poems of Wilfred Owen, ed. Jon Stallworthy (London: Chatto, 1990),
192. Hereafter abbreviated WO and cited parenthetically by page number.
35
Caesar argues that Owen shares with Brooke, Graves, and Sassoon a patronizing
condescension towards the lower-class men, and his argument helps to temper a style of
criticism with respect to the war poets that can, at times, seem reverential.
36
See John Addington Symonds, Male Love: A Problem in Greek Ethics and Other
Writings, ed. John Lauritsen (New York: Pagan, 1983). See also Timothy dArch Smith,
Love in Earnest: Some Notes on the Lives and Writings of English Uranian Poets from
1889-1930 (London: Routledge, 1970).
37
Probably the most famous representation of a strong sense of alliance across enemy
lines (a theme elaborated by Fussell) comes in All Quiet on the Western Front, when
Paul Bumer shares a shell-hole with a dying Frenchman and comes to see the enemy
as his likeness, an object of empathy rather than hatred. See Erich Maria Remarque, All
Quiet on the Western Front, trans. A. W. Green (New York: Ballantine, 1996), 218-20.
38
For other examples of Owens tendency to telescope institutional rituals into the
human form, see Song of Songs and the hauntingly beautiful Anthem for Doomed
Youth.
39
Numerous recent critics have utilized the concept of the counter-discourse, often in
queer theoretical contexts. For a foundational text, see Joseph Allen Boone, Tradition
Counter Tradition: Love and the Form of Fiction (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press,
1987).
40
The intertwined relation between the crowd and alienation represents, of course, an
important problem for many modernists. For a compelling analysis of modernism that
examines the way modernists worked to image and engage the mass mindan

498 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War


argument that challenges critical commonplaces about the apolitical nature of modern-
ismsee Michael Tratner, Modernism and Mass Politics: Joyce, Woolf, Eliot, Yeats
(Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1995).
41
More than any other theme, anger and outrage against the inaccuracy and
propagandistic quality of war reporting characterize nearly all war texts. The reader
should also note that Owens title contains an ironic reference to a popular war song.
42
For a strikingly similar tableau, see the opening pages of Edmund Blundens
famous war memoir, Undertones of War (Garden City: Doubleday, 1929), 1.
43
As in Disabled, Owen here looks directly at disabled ex-soldiers. For discussion of
dismemberment, social discourse, and public policy, see Bourke, Mutilating; Garton;
and Seth Koven, Remembering and Dismemberment: Crippled Children, Wounded
Soldiers, and the Great War in Great Britain, American Historical Review 99 (1994):
1167-1202.
44
In one of the more compelling critiques of Fussells reading of war literature,
Caesar argues that rather than view Sassoon, Owen, and Graves as anti-war poets, we
need to revisit the problematic valorization of violence in their poetry. For Caesar, the
idealization of physical and spiritual suffering (which he traces to the public-schools,
with their particular blend of masculinist, Christian, romantic, and classicist impulses) is
never fully rejected by the war poets. They are thus ideologically allied withrather
than opposed tothe patriotic Brooke, and all four are charged with reformulating and
endorsing an ethos of suffering.
45
Many war texts treat the problem of the impossibility of mourning during war. In
the words of one combatant, We mourned for a few hours and thenforgot them.
Callous? Yesbut that was life in France. We lived from day to day and almost every
sunset found a grave-digging party putting a comrade into his last bed (S. B. Abbott,
Memoir, IWM). A well-known text that focuses heavily on the psychological conse-
quences of inadequate mourning is R. C. Sherriffs Journeys End, first produced in
1928.
46
The figure of the man permanently scarred by the loss of friends can be found in
different forms throughout war verse. Another example from Sassoons corpus is Sick
Leave, a poem in which the speakers relentless ties to both living and dead warmates
thrusts him into a solipsism that denies all commitments to nonmilitary institutions or
conventions. The speaker, who describes himself as unfriended, understands his
position to be one of inevitable emptiness, constituted by the simultaneous presence
and absence of friends (SS, 94).
An Account of Ill Health, by Edward Shanley, describes the sorrow, guilt, and
longing of the former soldier thinking of his fellows still in the field. The poem closes
with the familiar alienated self, as the speaker imagines himself in a state of permanent
isolation: Then in that new-born world, unfriendly and estranged / I shall be quite
alone, I shall be left unchanged (Muse in Arms, 282).
Even more striking for its tableau of outcast ex-soldier as grieving friend is the closing
stanza of Herbert Reads My Company. Having established a highly idealized image of
the officer-poet in a relation of mutual admiration with his men, the speaker goes on to
imagine an eternity of agonizing loneliness defined by the loss of male friends: But
God! I know that Ill stand / Someday in the loneliest wilderness, / Someday my heart
will cry / For the soul that has been but that now / Is scattered with the winds, /
Deceased and devoid . . . I know that Ill wander with a cry: / O beautiful men, O men
I loved / O wither are you gone, my company? . . . This is a hell / Immortal while I live
(Taylor, 82).

Sarah Cole 499


47
It is instructive to contrast Hyness myth of the war(A War Imagined, x), a term
that refers to the modernist, alienated, embittered spirit exemplified by the canonical
war poets, with what George Mosse calls the Myth of the War Experience. Mosse,
whose focus is Germany, describes a collective war myth that functions essentially in an
opposite manner to what Hynes depicts in England, involving a resacralizing of war, a
concentration on the redeeming facts of battle (including comradeship, sacrifice, and
stoicism), and above all the creation of a new religion of nationalism. See Mosse, Fallen
Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars (New York: Oxford Univ. Press,
1990), 7.
48
For discussion of Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway as a striking example of the way
post-war alienation became inextricably linked with male friendship, see my The
Ambivalence of the Outsider: Virginia Woolf and Male Friendship, Virginia Woolf and
the Arts: Selected Papers from the Sixth Annual Virginia Woolf Conference (New York:
Pace Univ. Press, 1997), 191-97.
49
T. S. Eliot, Selected Poems (San Diego: Harcourt, 1964), 75.

500 Modernism, Male Intimacy, and the Great War