Onions, John (1986) The ideal of heroism in English fiction and drama about the first world war, 1918-1939. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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This thesis examines the way in which heroism is presented in English fiction and drama about the Great War during the period 1918-39.
It begins with the assumption that this literature had a particular responsibility for helping to destroy the validity of what had been conventionally understood by the concept of the military hero. The thesis tries to show how this was so, but it also suggests that this very same literature testifies, approvingly, to heroic action. In order to elucidate this paradox, the thesis proposes three ways of understanding heroic action: cultural, social and existential heroism.
After the Introduction to the thesis, Chapter One attempts to define the differences between these three approaches. It suggests that by 1914 heroism was largely seen in 'social' terms: the heroism of an action lay in its identification with an approved particular cause. The literature of the Great War - much of it published in the later twenties - demolished this comprehension of heroic action, yet found value in heroic suffering when it was denied this social approbation: i.e., it approved of the
'existential' hero.
The thesis further argues that much literature, owing to sociological circumstances, contributed to a new kind of social hero: the soldier-writer, who was conventionally brave and unconventionally outspoken. The development of this phenomenon is noted in Chapter Three.
Chapters Two and Four examine, in general terms, the background to and distinctive features of twenties war fiction. Studies of more famous individual writers then ensue, making use of ideas outlined in earlier chapters. These studies are so arranged that the thesis moves from works which attack the concept of the hero to works which, with varying success, struggle to redefine heroism until, in the final chapter, the ordinary soldier again emerges as a hero-figure.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: For access to the hard copy thesis, check the University Library catalogue.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PE English
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Contributors: Trodd, Anthea (Thesis advisor)
Hibberd, Dominic (Thesis advisor)
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 10 Jan 2020 11:35
Last Modified: 10 Jan 2020 11:35
URI: https://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/7482

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