Category Archives: literature genres

War Poetry

Some HSC students read Wilfred Owen’s poetry, and at SBHS there was a unit in Year 9 or 10 on war poetry. This post was first prepared for that SBHS unit.

Resources for a study on how war poems from different ages and cultures embody diverse values and attitudes. Here are a few starting points to look at:

  • National Public Radio in the USA had a series in 2003 called The Poetry of War: Poems Inspired by Past Conflicts. There is much to read and hear there, ranging from ancient times to the present.
  • Lancaster Royal Grammar School has a page devoted to Attitudes to War, including much reference to poetry. The page is part of a Transnational Learning Network, the Comenius Project.
  • The Reliability of War Poetry. “These activities are designed to analyse the War poetry of a variety of poets, including the famous Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon and Rupert Brooke, alongside less well known poetry from other Allied and German servicemen of the First World War.”
  • The First World War: Prose & Poetry.

    “…throughout the history of poetry-making, poems have provided a commentary – often critical – on what people, communities and nations do. And in the 20th century, the horrors and irreversible changes created by modern warfare changed poetry for good.

    “The thirty or so poems in this selection [written between 1914 and 1998] demonstrate – among many other things – this change. After the First World War it was clear that the subject of war could no longer be treated as though its slaughter was solemn and glorious. But how could war now be written about by poets? The following poems illustrate the diversity of answers to that question, in a variety of ways expressing the fundamental unacceptability of war. They also show that poets have not found the subject easy…”

  • A small but good collection of War Poems
  • Poet Links on Professor Eiichi Hishikawa’s websites, Kobe University, Japan, has many of the main 20th century English language poets.
  • A fascinating page that gives the original of a Han dynasty Chinese poem, “At Fifteen I Went to War”, together with five different English translations.
  • War Poetry (UK) – War poetry of the First World War. War poetry and anti-war poetry about Vietnam, the Falklands War, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq.
  • Trinity College Perth – P L Duffy Resource Centre – more resources on War Poetry.
  • Poetry – the argument essay is very good. It includes this opening paragraph for an essay:

    In Owen’s ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’ and Tennyson’s ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’, both poets show clear attitudes to war. Owen’s poem centres around an horrific gas attack he suffered with a group of soldiers so tired they were ‘drunk with fatigue’. Owen leaves us in no doubt his attitude is anti-war but Tennyson’s poem is more generally thought to portray war as glorious and soldiers as heroes, ‘When can their glory fade?’ yet I believe that Tennyson shows an attitude that is far closer to Owen than might at first be realised…’

    The Poetry of War by John Stringer. “War, or battles, have been a subject for poetry since the earliest times. The Iliad, after all, is a war poem; and much of the message is concerned with the individual heroism and the ultimate overall pointlessness of it all…”


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    Good children’s literature site


    Visit the site linked to that header*. Judith Ridge, the owner of that site, says:

    Hello! Thank you for visiting the Misrule website and for taking the time to find out more about me. I’ve been involved with children’s literature in many capacities; as reader, teacher, arts program co-ordinator, editor, critic, acolyte and advocate!..

    I have published reviews and critical articles about children’s literature in journals and publications such as Viewpoint: On Books for Young Adults, Magpies, The Melbourne Age, Australian Book Review, Good Reading Magazine, Australian Bookseller and Publisher and The Horn Book (USA).

    I teach a class in writing for children in the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Sydney. I also tutor second year children’s literature at Macquarie University where I am currently working on completing my MA and then, hopefully, my PhD. My tutor is John Stephens and I am writing my thesis on retellings of fairy tales, particularly in YA novels.

    You will find much good material here, and if you are a writer Judith also offers a manuscript assessment service for children’s authors.


    That link now takes you to the new Misrule site.

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    Posted by on January 17, 2007 in Australian, English studies, literature genres, works/authors


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    Studying comic strips? Really!

    Yes, I expect some of you out there will find this confirms all your worst fears about the “dumbing down” of the noble study of English, and ushers in the apocalypse! I don’t see it that way, given that the Year 8 students for whom I prepared the material which follows in November 2004 were also studying Shakespeare and much more besides. The unit itself was partly training in visual literacy, partly training in critical literacy. These texts exist. What is there function? How do they work? All valid enough, as far as I am concerned. The concept of “hero” was also part of this unit. All that is learned through studying the humble comics would have application later in many contexts, some of them more traditionally respected.

    phantom Year 8 students exploring what values are represented in comic strips: explore the first and greatest superhero to get some examples of vintage Superman, and The Phantom: A Publishing History in the U.S.A. gives you lots of vintage covers for this strip. See also The Phantom, The Ghost Who Walks which gives some more history.

    Here is a good fan site on Spiderman. Dark Knight is a wonderful Canadian site that tells you all you wanted to know about Batman. It is really beautiful, but made by someone who thinks everyone else has a really good computer. Check alternative Batman information here.

    For even more links see Wikipedia. This is very good and leads you to just about all you need. Toonopedia gives an alphabetical set of links that will lead you to details of the superhero of your choice. In some cases the links are dated so you can see how the character was represented over time.

  • This is very interesting from BBC Science: The Science of Superheroes.
  • Teachers and more advanced students might be interested in this reflective essay by Kai Friese from Transitions magazine, “White Skin, Black Mask,” about reading The Phantom as a boy in India.

    Some thirty-five years ago, the Indian publishing firm of Bennett and Coleman introduced the Phantom comic books that would fill the misspent afternoons of my boyhood. The first four frames were usually given over to the terse phrases and fragments of the perennial recap that was soon consigned to memory as I raced wide-eyed through my purple-clad hero’s latest adventures: thwarting gangsters, rescuing women, keeping the jungles of Africa safe. It was a quieter, gentler time. I lived in a somnolent neighborhood of Delhi called Bengali Market (after its largest establishment, Bhimsen’s Bengal Sweets). My father drove home at noon on weekdays for a lunchtime siesta. And my friends and I belonged to a cargo cult…

  • Update 19 March 2007

    Read Hero deficit: Comic books in decline, a feature article by Brad Mackay published in the Toronto Star Mar 18, 2007.

    The superhero comics that kids once knew (and perhaps loved) are in trouble. Notwithstanding Hollywood’s recent infatuation with big-budget superhero movies, for much of the past 30 years the monthly comic book adventures of Spider-Man, Batman and their kind have been suffering from shrinking readership and slumping sales.

    For example, during the heyday of the late 1970s, a bestseller from DC or Marvel Comics, two of the biggest publishers, could expect to sell 300,000 copies. These days a similar title would be fortunate to move more than 50,000.

    For an industry famous for tales packed full of muscles and melodrama, the situation has prompted an unusual amount of soul searching. The would-be villains are many. Some have blamed the sales slide on cultural upstarts, like video games, manga and the ever-present Internet. Others point to the increased popularity of bookstore-friendly graphic novels, sales of which have recently surpassed traditional comics.

    But there are those who have begun to ask more complex questions, like how characters that are 40, or even 70, years old can remain relevant in an increasingly diverse society. This raises one of the oldest and most uncomfortable truths about the superhero genre: its surprising dearth of non-white heroes, particularly black ones…

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    Posted by on January 13, 2007 in literature genres, Media/Film studies, questions asked, student help


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    New addition to writing workshop

    I have added a 2003 essay on the NSW HSC module In The Wild, dealing with The Tempest and Tim Flannery’s The Explorers. The essay, an annotated version, and a final draft are published side by side in three columns. Because WordPress does not support this format, I have placed it in Geocities, making plenty of links back to this site. See Neil Whitfield’s English and ESL Pages: Year 12 Module In the Wild 2003.


    You may have noticed a change in template here too. Hope you like it.

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    Posted by on January 3, 2007 in English studies, esl for students, HSC, literature genres, questions asked, Shakespeare, student help, works/authors, writing


    In the Wild: Brave New World and Blade Runner

    This went up on my personal site on 2 May 2006.

    I mentioned yesterday that I was rereading Aldous Huxley’s 1932 dystopia, using the Vintage Classics edition of 2004. David Bradshaw’s 1994 preface to that edition really is very good on the novel’s context and on its ambivalence: one is never sure whether Huxley is warning us about or celebrating his “Brave New World.” I really think the novel is about the search Huxley was on as much as anything else; certainly Huxley’s later career would seem to bear that out.

    Also, it has to be said that Brave New World really is not a very good novel, with its crashing coincidences and its deeply unbelievable Savage and its great dollops of Cardinal Newman and others. I rather like Bradshaw’s idea that Linda is based on D H Lawrence’s wife Frieda von Richtofen.

    Those studying the novel should head for, which is just about as comprehensive a set of ideas and links as you could get. One of those links is to the rather amazing A Defence Of Paradise-Engineering, whose theme really seems to be that we all need soma but just need to get the formula right. Another links to an essay by Ming Li, “The Cost of Stability in Brave New World“. I like this bit:

    Homer Simpson once said, “God has no place within these walls, just as facts have no place within organized religion”.

    See also, which is also excellent on the novel.

    [Ming Li’s essay seems to have gone, a pity. You may instead look at Snow Crash vs. Brave New World: Visions of the Future by Eric Richardson, Columbia, South Carolina. He quotes more extensively than I did from Ming Li’s essay.]

    NSW HSC students read Brave New World in conjunction with Blade Runner (2000 Director’s Cut), that quite amazing movie dystopia. My link refers you again to, which gives you just about all you need. HSC students are asked to consider both texts as part of a unit called In the Wild, the details of which you may read there. It is in fact a rather interesting unit. An alternative study of the same topic may be undertaken using David Malouf’s An Imaginary Life (a much better novel than Brave New World) and the poetry of Wordsworth. I have dealt with that one on my on another post here.

    On my personal blog this generated a bit of discussion: Look here. I moderated my view of Brave New World thus: “…while I still think BNW is far from the ‘world’s greatest novel’, it is an interesting parable, and does raise issues that even the brightest students can grapple with — perhaps for the rest of their lives! I know I am still grappling with them.”

    See also Watched Blade Runner (Director’s Cut) last night on my personal blog.

    2009-2012 HSC

    Blade Runner is now paired with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and the emphasis is different from “In the Wild”. Even so, much of the material above is useful still.


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    Now what do I know about Malouf and Wordsworth…?


    In 2005 I had two students who were reading David Malouf — or Wikipedia are both good places to start looking. One student was studying An Imaginary Life in the context of an “In the Wild” module also featuring Wordsworth. (He got Band 6 in the end.) Nature in is worth a visit. So of course is Wordsworth The other was studying The Great World as part of a Year 11 unit on “Visions of Australia”. Here is a site that fits Malouf into a postcolonial context. Could be useful.

    Here is a 1996 interview with Malouf in which he talks about “The Conversations at Curlow Creek, and other matters such as God and paganism and the sacred.”

    In January 2001 Malouf spoke with Ramona Koval on ABC Radio National; from his collection of short stories, Dream Stuff, Malouf read from one of the stories, called ‘Closer.’ He then talked about that story and his work. (This is a full transcript.)

    This Introduction to The Great World is concise but a reasonable start.

    This is one of the best things I have found so far for both books. Film Australia (PDF) has published these “viewing notes” for a documentary on Malouf also called An Imaginary Life.

    This New York Times review of the novel An Imaginary Life is worth visiting, as is this one of The Great World. (If the New York Times demand registration, remember it is free – and useful.)

    If you want a rather turgid essay in pomo style on An Imaginary Life, look at An Imaginary Life by David Malouf: The Struggle for the Sign, the Struggle for the Self”. Look too at “The Stranger in Three Novels by David Malouf” by Jorg Heinke, University of Kiel, Germany — even if it is oddly organised — or at least I think so.

    On Wordsworth there is “Wordsworth’s poetry” by Anne Collins, from HSC Online. You could also do some very profitable time-wasting by doing a virtual tour of Wordsworth’s Cumbria. Then, and I do warn you in advance, look at William “The Interminable” Wordsworth (1770-1850) written by someone else who has found “The Prelude” to be great for insomnia…


    Here is a beautiful site to look at: Nature, Beauty, and Power: The Romantics (Pitt State University). Another US university, Washington State, offers a plain no-nonsense introduction to Romanticism.

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    Posted by on December 19, 2006 in Australian, English studies, HSC, literature genres, student help, works/authors


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