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Lecture 10

ENGLISH 2G06 Lecture 10: English 2G06 - Lecture 10-13 - Generals Die In Bed

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McMaster University

Generals Die In Bed Friday October 25, 2013 • Invocation to the text – Harrison dedicates the novel to the “bewildered youths” who were killed in the wood o Significance? Dedicated to the Germans as well, who were the enemy o Tells us to think about things in ways that people didn’t want to look at them in the past • Portraying the soldiers as actual people • Harrison has a view of soldiers that is somewhat different • Says that the soldiers indulge in things such as booze and prostitutes • “Down the line” line of prostitutes, line of trenches o A correlation between what they will experiences while in the trenches • Talks about men in their underwear (not often talked about) • Jaundice – yellow in colour, diminished, greyed down, fallen o Living in a world where is no real brightness • Constructing a narrative, not just a reporter • Portraying these soldiers not at their best • Tension between sin and sacredness o God and what he demands in contrast to what these men are forced to do by their occupation o Absolute lack of moral and ethical values o Getting away with anything they can, operating at a low level o Young boys – around 17 years old • Troubling attitudes towards war, authority and social structures • “Subversive” novels – attempts to overturn traditional attitudes • Looked down on men who didn’t contribute to the war • “Sleek”, polished men stayed behind from war because they had money o This raises class issues • Constructed fiction when the girl kisses him o Young man who is frightened and confused while marching into the unknown o He describes her as the last link between home and war o Having to leave even though he wants to say – simply not a journalistic account but a carefully constructed narrative • Page 5 – end of the first chapter – stunning ending o Constructed fiction o Based on his experience o “Sac of potatoes”, “green gills”, “slimy and wet” o Sac of potatoes doesn’t do much o Foreshadowing of what they are going to face in the war o Slimy – slippery floor from vomit (sickness, scared) • These boys had no way of knowing what to expect (came from small rural towns) • A journalist would talk about their entire journey, however the second chapter begins in the trenches • Why does Harrison not as a journalist not give us an accurate interpretation of events? o So that the reader is unexpectedly tossed into the center of the war, just like the soldiers o Bewildering for the reader – much like the soldiers o Provides a stark parallel – goes from one shabby area to another o Lines of prostitutes from lines of trenches o Doesn’t make a difference if you have training – training doesn’t prepare the soldiers for the true harshness of war o Harrison tosses the soldiers and readers in the middle of the war o Training doesn’t change the experience or make it better o Pastoral, rural world has been turned into rubble o De-romanticize war o Already de-romanticized the soldiers and people at home Lecture 2 • 10 – plays around with surrealism • Going beyond what a reporter would say, honest to subject matter • Stream of consciousness, investigating the unconscious mind • “I try to fancy the preliminary bombardment” (imagine) • What is troubling about this? • Training is pointless – by the time you hear the gunshot, the bullet is already coming for you • How are you supposed to fall on your belly as they learning in training while you have already been hit by the shell • Training doesn’t have any affect whether you will live or die in war • Harrison is troubling logical order of things accustomed in war • Reverse cause and effect – logical order has been totally troubled • Doesn’t document from A to B to C because he suggests that logic no longer obtains (simple notions of cause and effect don’t apply anymore) • What kind of imaginative world is the narrator constructing? • Repeated word: I (individual heroism) • Old romantic ideas about battle where the individual could have an effect on the outcome • Disconnect between imagination (hero) and Flanders Field type death in the other (no suffering) • Descriptive language o Language is the way human beings describe the reality they inhabit • Prescriptive language o Language that prescribes behaviours o Can tell people how to act o If you constantly tell people that war is noble, people are going to believe it o This is prescribing behaviour – this dangerous o Example: war posters, advertisements o Page 18 – “artillery duel” o However, the machinery is doing all the work – no agency o Usually fools people into doing something that is not in their best interest, but the interest of someone else • Disconnect with language of how i
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