"Beauty, that piercing joy akin to pain": Romanticism and the "Christian Moral Economy of 'Sacrifice'" in First World War Poetry

  • Author / Creator
    Hamilton, Samantha J
  • This thesis examines the connection between Romanticism and the Christ-like sacrifice of soldiers depicted in British poetry of the First World War. It focuses on the Romantic notion of the artist as an individual with special knowledge who suffers in order to create beautiful art, which, this thesis argues, provides a precedent for poets during the war to portray the suffering and sacrifice of combatants in beautiful – and, thus, aesthetically acceptable – ways. Particularly, this thesis focuses on a small, but diverse, group of poets who use the consecrated language of Christianity not only to express in poetry the un-poetic aspects of war (suffering and death), but to navigate a wartime culture of hyper-nationalism and what Peter Howarth calls “a Christian moral economy of ‘sacrifice’ for national honour or the common good” (51) in order to express their thoughts and feelings on the war to a large (and largely conservative) audience.
    The methods used in this thesis include a historical analysis of the culture and context in which the poets here examined developed and published their work. This analysis includes an examination of the formal and informal education that these poets likely received as well as the publishing conditions in Britain during the First World War. This historical context provides the basis for applying the genre theory used by Nils Clausson, who argues for the necessity of poetic models being available to poets to write about their wartime experiences poetically. This thesis argues that Romantic poetry was made an accessible poetic model for poets via their education, and this genre of poetry is demonstrated to have influenced the poetry herein examined through the close reading and formal analysis of selected works by Sergeant Leslie Coulson, Eva Dobell, Private Wilfrid Gibson, Rudyard Kipling, Marjorie Pickthall, Lieutenant Siegfried Sassoon, and the Reverend Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.