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In lycée with Mister B. :

In lycée with Mister B. : “baïonnette”

Hier, je rentre à la maison et découvre le message qu’une collègue d’histoire-géographie a envoyé à tous les enseignants depuis la messagerie de l’ENT au sujet de leur baïonnette :

In lycée with Mister B. : "baïonnette" photo

Nous avons donc une baïonnette de la première guerre mondiale dans la nature soit au lycée on ne sait où, soit chez un professeur. Bien bien.

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

A transformed vision of time in Regeneration

Introduction

Space, setting, the interaction between landscape and mindscape and the curious similarities between outdoors places in Scotland and the landscape of the Flanders correspond to the writer’s intention of similarity: the characters are so obsessed by the war that they see it in Scotland.

This obsession ultimately transforms their vision of time.

The present is the past

Indeed, the characters have no present. It applies to all traumatized soldiers:

  • conscious: remembering.
  • unconscious: hallucination

For instance, Sassoon had hallucinations (p.12): “the pavement was covered in corpses“. Then he says he had no more: the reader can doubt it:

  • p.5: “he saw lines of men“.
  • p.142: “with a crack like rifle fire“.

The same happens to Burns: (p.37): “a branch rattled like machine gun fire“.
And to Prior:

  • p.214: “the darkness, the nervousness, the repeated and unnecessary swallowing…
  • p.215: “at this distance, her eyes merged into a single eye“.He remembers the eye he held in the trenches.Love scene turned into a horror scene.

No future

If the past keeps coming back then there is no future.

  • p.118: Rivers’s analysis of Sassoon: “inability to envisage any kind of future“.
  • p.198: “it means you’re obsessed […] you never talk about the future anymore“.

A subjective vision of time

Read passage p.83-84 : conversation between Owens and Sassoon about the war.

Personal time

Interesting passage: 2 people in a hospital talking about their past experience. You would expect present tense to refer to the moment of enunciation and past tenses to refer to the war but here, present tenses are used to refer to the past:

  • “sometimes when you’re alone“.
  • and that makes it something you almost can’t challenge“.
  • what you see every night“.

When the present is used, “you” is used too. Both tense and pronoun have the effect of generalizing their experience so that their personal experience of the war is turned into a universal experience. What happened to them becomes exemplary.

B. Historical time

Generalization has the effect of blurring WW1 as an historical event and of presenting it as an a-historical event.

Owen:

  • you get sense of something ancient“.Owen takes the war out of the contemporary period.
  • men from Marlborough’s army“.He compares WW1 to very distant events in the past.
  • wars distilled themselves into that war“.Owen shows the similarities of all wars. World War One is the model, the paradigm of all wars.

Sassoon refers to the future. The result is the same: war loses its temporal and historical quality.

  • “I seemed to be seeing it from the future”.If he is in the future, then war represents the past.

War loses its historical quality. The common point is that war becomes a sort of symbolic representation of Time.

Time is movement but for them, time is eternal death.

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

Landscape and mindscape in Regeneration

Study of a passage p.37-38: “he got off at the next stop […] whine of shells“.

This passage is not a dialogue. The narrator is telling us about Burns. Presence of realistic elements: stress on concrete details (“a tuft of grey wool“). Use of chronological order + realistic framework.

Everything is seen through Burns’s subjectivity: he is the central focalizer and we move from an objective description of landscape to a subjective mindscape.

Presence of subjectivity

Focalization

Burns is the focalizer (internal focalization): “looking up and down“. Burns does not only look, he feels trough his skin: “raindrops”, “burning round the knees”.

He also hears the pigeon.

Narration

Passage characterized with 3rd person narration. From time to time, the voice of the character emerges:

  • “it was so long since he’d been anywhere alone”.
  • “up, up”.

Burns is talking. The main effect is to reduce the distance between the reader and the character.

The impossible escape

Burns has left the hospital in an impulse. He does not know where he wants to go. His mental state is extremely fragile and even the traffic is too much for him. He favours a solitary place: “a hill”. Desire for escape:

  • out of hospital.
  • away from human beings.

The hill: a savage and desolate place. The stress is on the upward movement:

  • “up, up”
  • repetition of “hill”
  • “climbing”
  • “crest”

When there is an insistence on something in the text, it may have a symbolic meaning.

  • upward movement: usually trying to find a better world.
  • quite consistent with his desire to get away from human beings.
  • it is unconscious.

The problem is that he goes up but he is stopped: “way barred by a force”. His progression is hindered and he becomes a prisoner of Nature. Intention to move on: “he pressed two strands of wire apart” but failure: “catching his sleeve”. Then panic: “breaking into a sweat”. Burns tries to protect himself: “steeple of his cupped hands”.

There are 2 symbolic meanings:

  • protecting his breath,
  • steeple: symbol of the church.
    => he ought to take shelter.

An aggressive nature

3 elements out of 4 are present in the text:

  • Air: wind
  • Earth: mud
  • Water: rain

The 4 elements are necessary to life but here rain aggresses Burns and blinds him. No freedom. Air: high wind and maline intention (evil wind). “Snatching away” : the wind is trying to kill him.

The landscape of Scotland becomes the landscape of Flanders. Burns mistakes a place for another (confusion) and a moment for another: there is no present for Burns since what he lives is the war.

That is the way Pat Barker chose to express Burns’ trauma.

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

Historical figures and fictional characters in Regeneration

How human beings presented in Regeneration are different from historical characters?

Paradoxically, several characters had real historical existence and yet, there is no difference between those who really existed and those invented: it seems that they are on the same level.

The major difference lays in characterization, i.e. the ways in which human beings are constructed in characters. In history books, the stress is usually on public life whereas in fiction the stress is on subjectivity.

Regeneration is a faithful evocation of World War One and the view of the war that is given is the juxtaposition of subjective views of characters.

Characterization

A – Places

Where are the characters presented ?

  • hospital + patients’ room [Private]
  • one of the character’s home [Private]
  • the lovers’ place [Intimate]
  • several passages showing Rivers in his bathroom (p.44) [Most private
    life
    ]

Lire la suite

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

First dialogue between Rivers and Sassoon in Regeneration

Study of the passage p11-12: from “What kind of questions did they ask..” to “with quite a bit of his leg left inside“.

This is the first real dialogue between Rivers and Sassoon. Sassoon is presented as shell-shocked. This passage is composed of a dialogue and 12 lines of narrative. Most of the narrative comments describe Sassoon’s behaviour.

Dialogue and verisimilitude

Dialogue enhances verisimilitude. Rivers is a psychiatrist and Sassoon is the patient. It is a normal professional situation. The relations are based on dialogue.

The psychiatrist has to understand and must invite patients to talk to overcome the previous trauma.

“War neurosis”: technical language.

Dialogue and drama

Tension, conflictual situation.On the one hand, Rivers is a military psychiatrist whose duty is to heal the soldiers to send them back to the front in France. On the other hand, Sassoon is a poet who has written a protestation against the war.

The conflict is all the more obvious that there is no narrator in this passage. The two characters seem to address the reader directly.

Dialogue and character’s development

We learn about the characters when reading the dialogue. The dialogue is also used as stage directions: it has a theatrical function. Stage directions are indications of characters’ personality.

l.2: “Sassoon smiled“.
  • smile is not expected
  • ironical when he says “Don’t you know ?

He asks another question instead of answering. Non-answers. l.6: Sassoon describes the Board as “rather amusing” : flippant, arrogant, irony.

Flippancy changes with the psychological evolution of Sassoon.

l.23 : “looked surprised“.
From that point onwards, Sassoon is not so sure of himself.
Rivers managed to destabilize him.

l.33 : “Mad Jack” —– “looked taken aback
Even more destabilized.

l.37 : “ “Is it ?” Sassoon looked down at his hands“.
Avoids confrontation, playing hide and seek.

l.40 : “he looked up to see if he should continue“.
Sassoon recognizes that Rivers is a form of authority.

Dialogue and banishment of the past

The use of dialogue modifies temporality because historical events are suddenly brought out of the past into the present situation.The novel was written in 1991. The passage deals with 1917. A history book uses 3rd person and past tense.

Here, the past is made present in the dialogue. Sassoon speaks of his own time (immediate time), talks about his Board and some parts of his experience in France a few months before.

The period of time is reduced: the novel is situated in the First World War and 1917 becomes the temporal landmark.

Sassoon starts speaking in past tense but l.44 he reverts to sentences without verbs (nominal sentences). No verb means no passing of time, no past.l.46 : present tenses again.

The experience is so drastic that when speaking he is reliving the moment. Past becomes present again. That is exactly what Rivers had hoped for.

Technical remarks

  • indirect speech: the disappearance of the past.
  • l.5: Sassoon reports the question he was asked. For us readers, it is as
    if we witnessed the scene of the Board: it is shown more than told.
The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker

Is Regeneration a novel with a plot ?

It is not as obvious as in a detective story.

I. Sassoon’s transformation

Must be seen in the changes that occurred between the beginning and the end of the novel. At the beginning, Sassoon has just protested against fighting the war.

In the end, something has changed: “no, I want to go back” (p.213). He has stopped his protest and has made the decision to go back to the front. He hesitates between protesting and going back. See p.118, paragraph 2: he is changing his mind.

II. Rivers’ transformation

At the beginning, Rivers has a very clear cut attitude: the soldiers must go back to the front when they are better. It is his “duty” (p.48). “Duty” is a very important word for Rivers. He is a military psychiatrist: a doctor but also an army officer.

p.164: “look […] I do the job“.
Not even a question of choice, he is an officer with responsibilities. Military pressure too: there were no reasons of not continuing the war at the beginning.

Lire la suite

The plot in Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

The setting in Regeneration by Pat Barker

A hostile nature

Use of an adjective of color (yellow)

The sun and the light are described as yellow, which is a warm color not normally applied to natural light.

  • p.175, l.2: “fading to yellow“. Yellow not presented as a bright color, paradox.
  • p.128: “yellowing of the light“, “sulfurous“. Attribute of Lucifer, negative connotation.
  • p.199: “like an artificial sunset“.The natural light of the sun has gone. Yellow is linked to the war.

Yellow is associated with light, with Sarah’s skin (because of the ammo factory). It has a negative connotation. This is a subversion of nature. The sun is expected to give light. Here it is the ammo factory that gives light.

Light is the symbol of life whereas war is related to death: there is a subversion of the normal use of life and light.

Lire la suite

Introduction to Regeneration by Pat Barker photo

Introduction to Regeneration by Pat Barker

Regeneration has to do with World War One (WW1) and it is visible right from its cover. The novelist, Pat Barker is one of the first women writers who have written about the Great War.

Pat Barker is a university-trained historian and this is confirmed by the presence of very reliable sources in the “Author’s Notes”, at the end of the novel.

Regeneration is a historical novel on the surface but is really more than that.

I. Historical accuracy

Several elements allow us to consider Regeneration as historically exact.

A. Real elements

1 – Real people

In the novel, there is a whole list of characters who have really existed.

Several characters like Siegfried Sassoon, Wilfried Owen, and Robert Graves were both poets and soldiers during the war.

The two psychiatrists also existed: Rivers had very modern Freudian views and Yealland did apply his own methods as it is described in the novel.

Pacifists like Lady Morrel and Bertrand Russel are real people. Important to note that pacifism was strictly forbidden at the time.

Thus, this novel is a mixture of real people and characters: Burns, for instance, is a total invention.

2 – Real facts and events

There are numerous references to battles (e.g.: the battle of the Somme) and places (e.g.: Flanders, Belgium). Yet, the major place is Craiglockheart, where the action takes place.

Regeneration is also historical because of its treatment of realism.

B. Realism

Some characters are real but some are pure inventions from the part of Pat Barker. The general type of writing is realistic. Here are some elements that highlight this.

1 – Landscape

It is the landscape of war throughout the testimony of the patients and more especially trench warfare. Regeneration insists on the presence of corpses, mud, and rats…

2 – Soldiering

That is the life the soldiers had in the trenches. Realistic writing likes to insist on things that are disagreeable and wants to show reality as it is (not hide anything). Pat Barker gives the reader lots of details about life in the trenches:

“It was flooded. You stand the whole time. Most of the time in pitch darkness because the blast kept blowing the candles out. We were packed in so tight we couldn’t move. And they just went all out to get us. One shell after the other. I lost two sentries. Direct hit on the steps. Couldn’t find a thing.”
“And you had forty-eight hours of that ?”
“Fifty. The relieving officer wasn’t in a hurry.” (p52)

“Your watch is brought back by a runner, having been synchronized at headquarters.” A long pause. “You wait, you try to calm down anybody who’s obviously shitting himself or on the verge of throwing up. You hope you won’t do either of those things yourself. Then you start the count down: ten, nine, eight… so on. You blow the whistle. You climb the ladder. Then you double through a gap in the wire, lie flat, wait for somebody else to get out – and then you stand up. And you start walking. Not at the double. Normal walking speed.” Prior started to smile. “In a straight line. Across open country. In broad daylight. Towards a line of machine-guns.” (p78)

There is no commentary at all. All we have is action. There is no attempt at hiding reality: Prior says it as it is. It is clearly opposed to propaganda, where soldiers are always presented as great heroes.

3 – Horror

Throughout Regeneration, there is an insistence on physical suffering as well as on mental suffering, which is the major aspect of the novel. The symptoms are all exact, they have been studied by doctors (historically genuine).

Several soldiers have twitching of the head (spasmodic movement), stammering, anorexia.

Some became mute (e.g.: Prior) or have mental paralysis, hallucinations (CF p12), terrible nightmares (cannot sleep anymore) or phobias (Anderson cannot see blood any longer).

CF p102 from “He’d gone….eye”.

This is a key passage. The notion of eye may be a reference to the second volume of Regeneration, which is entitled The Eye in the Door.

Let us study the realistic elements in this excerpt to see how realism functions:

  • the characters’ names: Logan is a Christian family name, calling people with family name tends to create a familiarity with the reader.
  • setting: the trench. Very material details and a description of life in the trenches.
  • the person telling the story was there: Prior is an eyewitness.
  • factual style: very dry sort of style. Short sentence. No linkwords. No comments. The narrator wants the facts to speak for themselves.
  • insistence on all that is horrible: vomiting, putting human flesh in a bag, finding an eye.
  • temporal development of the passage. The reader is not prepared for the last sentence. No building-up. It is when the reader thinks the action is over that Prior finds the eye. Pat Barker is trying to put the reader in a situation where he expects to find vomit but no such thing as an eye.
  • traumatic reading experience, aiming at being as brutal as possible.

On the whole, due to the many references to real events and people, it might be tempturous to consider Regeneration as a historical document. In fact, history is subdued to fiction.

II. History is subdued to fiction

A. Representation of the war

1 – Dramatization

Is not something to be found in historical documents. See passage p160: Sarah is here with her friend. The setting is realist: it is an overcrowded hospital. Insistence on all that is horrible (opposed to romanticism).

Pat Barker wants to tell the truth at all cost but the text cannot be reduced to realism : a historical document aims at objectivity and this passage is purely subjective.

a) focalization

Through whose eyes is the scene seen ? Focalization is a question of viewpoint. In this excerpt, the scene is seen through Sarah’s eyes. It has several effects and consequences on the reader: he identifies with Sarah thanks to the many verbs of perception, shift from objective verbs (see) to more subjective verbs (seem, look).

Through the verbs of perception, the reader learns about the soldiers and about Sarah’s emotions. Focalization creates subjectivity.

b) narration

The narrator is the one who tells the story. He is a third-person narrator, i.e. an independent voice (different from a character’s), just like in history books. Yet , there is a shift from 3rd person narrator to Sarah’s voice.

  • she backed out“: indirect speech, narrator
  • but no, she thought“: form of emotion and later free indirect speech, Sarah’s voice.

We are finally placed in Sarah’s mind. Subjective element.

c) dramatization

Not a cold, neutral description. If we can feel emotions or reactions, we must find all the triggering elements.

  • Suspense
    • “before she saw them”: at that point we do not know what “them” represents: it creates a form of suspense
    • “a row of figures in wheelchairs”: stress on the form, not on humanity.
  • Different places : Sarah is entering the room: the “threshold” is the symbolical line separating two worlds.
    • Outside: the stress is on the sun, the light (“dazzled”). World of light and health.
    • Inside: absence of light (“dim”). World of half-life, half-death. This symbolical opposition is part of the dramatization effect.
  • Tension between the wounded soldiers and the young woman : conflict between the pretty girl (seduction) and the wounded (not handsome any longer because of their mutilations).

Internal conflict too: “thinking that perhaps if…” and then “but no…”

Thus, this passage is certainly not an objective evocation of mutilated soldiers during WW1.

It is as much about Sarah as it is about the war: her awakening to the horror of the war and to political consciousness.

2 – How can we differentiate Regeneration from a history book ?

a) Time

There are very few dates in the novel. Chronology is disrupted by a lot of flashbacks. The novel is based on a series of scenes and dialogues.

b) Subjectivity

The novel is based on revolt and anger. Sassoon has really existed and protested against the war, though he was not a pacifist.

Ironical tone (cf Prior p78). The use of italics has the effect of foregrounding Prior’s voice (personal experience). Book: a mixture of irony and anger. The irony is absent from history books.

c) Textuality

Presence of stylistic devices: literariness has been precisely worked upon to create some effect. See p.16 – 79 – 83

p.16: passage from “At one point…” to “tree”.
“like the roots of an overturned tree” : simile.

p.79: passage “I looked back… down.”

“writhing”: movement of a snake

“like fish in a pond”

“fluttering down” : evokes birds, butterflies

p.83: passage “You know…..” : “like mushrooms”.

All these examples are comparisons (similes and metaphors) between:

  • the wounded and the animals
  • dead bodies and plants.

It creates an effect of dehumanization.

Skulls and mushrooms => notion of proliferation. Plants: something growing, the embodiment of life. Here, it means death. Very brutal effect on the reader because it is not expected.

War Poet : Wilfried Owen photo

War Poet : Wilfried Owen

Biography

Wilfried Owen was born in the West of England and educated in a technical college. He left England in 1913 to teach English in Bordeaux (France) and came back in 1915 to enlist.

He was soon commissioned and injured in March 1917. He was sent to Craiglockheart where he met Wilfried Sassoon. Returned to the Front in 1918 and was killed one week before the end of the war.

Owen found his own voice in the trenches, although he began writing poetry at an early age. Most of his poems were written between Summer 1917 and Autumn 1918. Only 5 of his poems were published in his lifetime.

His reputation slowly grew and now, he is regarded as a first-rank War poet, wooed for his bleak realism, his energy, his compassion, his high technical skills.

Two poets influenced Owen: Keats and Sassoon. The War had a very important impact on the quality of his verse.

What is remarkable is how he developed from an imitator of Keats to a major War poet. His meeting with Sassoon played a great key role too.

In Regeneration by Pat Barker, Sassoon encourages Owen to write poetry and says: “Sweat your guts writing poetry”.

Hence, in Owen’s poetry, the two influences are used:

  • the Keatian influence, visible in word music and lyric strain: the delightened competence in sound effect and rhythm, the use Owen makes of color, his determination to see beauty.
  • the Sassonian influence in Owen’s irony and realism : anger and ironic contrast, number of themes (eg: theme of “Disabled”). Owen adds a cosmic dimension thanks to Sassoon’s themes.

Pity is a key word in Owen’s poetry:

“Above all I’m not concerned with Poetry, my subject
is War and the pity of War. The Poetry is the pity.”

World War One poetry : a problematic issue photo

World War One poetry: a problematic issue

Introduction

War poetry is not a school of poetry in itself but it played a tremendous part since it inspired a new birth of inspiration. It was a totally new experience: nothing like that before in poetry, no war like WW1 before.

War had already been a subject for poetry but never with such feelings. In English consciousness, in 1914, war was fought by processionals away from home and many people thought it glamorous.

Before 1914, war poems would have an exotic ending, completely removed from immediate experience. But WW1 is a new experience in the sense that the poets had to find a poetic voice to render what they witnessed.

Poets were ill-equipped because they had no tradition to draw upon, no worthwhile models to imitate.

First, poets imitated anthology pieces or well-established forms like sonnets. Then, they gradually found their own voices.

The Georgian Movement

The Georgian Movement appeared in 1912. Originally, it applied to the writers of George V but the meaning was then restricted to pastoral poetry.

The five volumes of Georgian Poetry appeared between 1912 and 1922. It was very successful but the quality declined in the last volumes. Great influence for many poets.

Several poets, including Sassoon and Blunden, objected to being called Georgian Poets, although they had published poems in the Georgian Anthology.

Note : nowadays, “Georgian” has a rather pejorative and negative connotation. Many critics made it impossible to associate “Georgian” and good poetry, especially because of the importance of modernism which marginalized Georgian Poetry.

G. Poets were mainly blamed for their traditionalism (imitation of their forefathers), for being escapists (attempting to escape from urban and industrial life) and for cultivating false simplicity.

In fact, Georgian Poetry was most interesting than that: the Georgian movement was a reaction against the poetic establishment, embodied by Newbolt.

The first two volumes include many poems but fail to include such poets as Owen (who thought himself Georgian). Marsh is responsible for the Georgian anthology, he made it on subjective grounds: “this volume is issued in the belief that English poetry is now once more putting on a new strength and beauty”.

As a result, the Georgian Movement is quite informal and Georgian Poetry is not homogeneous. There are two phases in Georgian Poetry :

  • Georgian phase proper: 1912-1915 volumes.
  • Neo-Georgian phase.

Phase 1 is the real Georgian Poetry. In 1912, Georgian Poetry was hailed as symbolizing “the new rebellion in English poetry”. Poets have in common to challenge the establishment, the current trends in poetry:

  • Denial of individualism.
  • Virtues of national identity and moral responsibilities.
  • “Poetic diction”, pompous poetry.

By contrast, the aims of Georgian Poetry in Phase 2 was to give a subjective personal response to personal concern to return to Wordsworth and to use a straightforward and casual language (that is why they were blamed for cultivating simplicity).

The Georgian general recommendation was the giving up of complex forms so that more people could read poetry. Georgian Poetry was to be English but not aggressively imperialistic, pantheistic rather than atheistic; and as simple as a child’s reading book.

Traditionalism

Georgian poets were blamed for being traditionalists: they rejected the accepted practices of their days. They tried to react and to follow the lead shown by Wordsworth a century earlier, who wanted to “write in the real language of man”.

They were not only reacting again but also trying to introduce some new keys innovations into English poetry.

Escapism

Georgian poets were said to have ignored the time in which they lived (unlike Newbolt). They wanted to make the poetry reading public, aware of the unpleasant faith of English society. They introduced prostitutes and tramps in their poetry.

Far from being escapist, early Georgian Poetry relied on realism (cf Brook). To make poetry relevant, they adopted a close reflection of real life, common and sordid. They attempted to describe the emotional reality.

Nature was an obsession for the poets: it was used to explore other issues and as a means of communication. Georgian Poetry puts a strong emphasis on emotional response. It is an answer to the increasing complexity of dislocation of the modern world.

Georgian War Poetry

Georgian war poetry is not a homogeneous mass, it changes at the same as new expedience arises from fighting and the life in the trenches. Early poetry written before the battle of the Somme in 1916 :

  • chivalric heroic aspect
  • virtue of sacrifice
  • righteous cause

Leading figures: Brooke, Sorley.

Later poetry (after 1916) :

  • sense of delusionment
  • war felt as senseless
  • cost of war in human terms (casualties)

Leading figures: Sassoon, Owen, Blunden, Rosemberg. Many of the early poems were written by patriotic versifiers.

Many poems (not all) are a mere formula using stereotypes of rhymes etc.