Foucault, Ulysses, and the Modern Archive

In the opening of Eliot's essay "Ulysses, Order, and Myth," he states, "Mr Joyce's book has been out long enough for no more general expression of praise, or expostulation with its detractors, to be necessary; and it has not been long enough for any attempt at a complete measurement of its place and significance to be possible (Eliot, pg 128)." This statement seems to connect to Foucault's statement, "It [the archive] emerges in fragments, regions, and levels, more fully no doubt, and with greater sharpness, the greater the times that separates us from it: at most, were it not for the rarity of the documents, the greater chronological distance would be necessary to analyze it (Foucault, pg 130)." Both bring up an interesting point. How do we know in the present when an item is significant enough to include in the archive? Even Eliot, as he recognizes the importance of Joyce's work, cannot clearly say that it will be important for future generations. It is undoubtedly true that Foucault's assertion that a common discourse exists which provides the boundaries for the archive. However, only time can tell if those fragments will remain important.

Today, archiving literary materials is both easier and more challenging. It is easier because institutions and archives that already have a tradition of collecting literature can use their collection development policy (the boundaries Foucault talks about) within which they collect. The difficulty is the format of the materials we are acquiring. With podcasts, blogs, and other digital material expressing profound and important fragments of our time and the possible deterioration of these materials and loss of these materials for all sorts of reasons, the challenge of digital content disappearing and changing daily presents new and exciting challenges. In addition, with the variety of discourse and points of view available in present-day literature and new modes of publishing, how do we ensure we capture "the right things" as we continue to build the archive? 



George Saintsbury includes on the use of the word “dull” that “its use, indeed, is characteristic of that odd concentration on self which distinguishes our day. Anything that does not at once provide the indispensable and sacred ‘good time’ deserves contemptuous condemnation and gets it” (2). I found this sentiment rang true, especially thinking about archives and how we view objects in that space, taking more account of items and documents because they are in the archive, and trying to draw information or any kind of response to the materials, even if they would appear dull at first to another. Perhaps that is one of the points when context is important. 


Saintsbury says regarding the Paston Letters “as pure literature the documents do not rank high; as pure history they were marginal, auxiliary, appendicial rather than of capital importance and interest” (3). I came across a website about the Paston Letters, accompanied by a lot more contextual information around the letters, such as the life as a scribe in medieval times, and the Paston families and who they were over a few centuries. The makers and researchers for this website aggregated a lot of  information that could help people see that these letters hold significant historical value, and they should be considered beyond face value. I am assuming they spent a lot of time in the archives of the Paston Letters, and over time came to understand a lot more about life in the medieval era of this region. Archives can bring new knowledge to us in this way, in a format that is understandable to many, but it requires a lot of close and finite work to see what the materials can tell us in the first place. This reading makes me think about the process of digitizing archival materials and what that can mean for those without access to the archives in a physical sense.


Connection between "The Waste Land" and " A historical a Priory"

In one of the readings I read this week, I especially pay attention to the observations and philosophy of the archive from Foucault's point of view. According to Foucault, the archive is described in fragments, regions and levels and observing; and tracking the archive will therefore require taking into account the discontinuities that separate us. from what we can no longer perceive (p.130). And I feel that this is reflected in “The Waste Land” by T.S. Eliot, which is composed of fragmentary and seemingly unrelated parts, which reflects the reflection of modern society and the collapse of traditional information.

Another element I found relevant to “The Waste Land” this week was the use of intertextuality in the transitions of statements. It is clear that the poem is a collection of references, allusions, quotations to many different literary sources, from which I think that “The Waste Land” itself is an archive in the modern period.

Additionally, Foucault's discussion of the historical a priori suggests that the archive is a temporal boundary surrounding our presence, which I think is relevant to the exploration of history in “ The Waste Land”. There is no doubt that the poem puts the past and present together, mentioning the influence of history and tradition on present reality. Foucault said that “that we are difference, that our reason is the difference of discourses, our history the difference of times, our selves the difference of masks” (p.131). It is this concept that is metioned again and again in “The Waste Land” by depicting a world of cultural, social, and spiritual fragmentation, where meanings are constantly shifting and unstable.

Should an Archive to Include More Quantity or Quality?

"It must show, for example, that the history of grammar is not the projection into the field of language and its problems of history that is generally that of reason or of a particular mentality, a history in any case that is shares with medicine, mechanical sciences, or theology; but that it involves a type of history - a form of dispersion in time, a mode of succession, of stability, and of reactivation, a speed of deployment or rotation - that belongs to it along, even if it is not entirely unrelated to other types of history." The statement from Foucault's The Historical A Priori and the Archive reminds me of how languages are learned by native, second, and third learners. Foucault has a really great and accurate opinion on grammar of languages. In modern time, the language of English is in another stage. That said, English has come along way and evolved into the model that fit with the current timeline. From the past, English had different grammars in different formats for each specific time of period. In each distinguish time of period, English fitted their language learners' style of learning and how the entire nation thought about knowledge. Of course, it creates gaps for the latter ones to learn the previous ones (e.g. modern English learners to learn the grammar in Romantic period), that also creates another gap of difficulty for current language learners to communicate with the ones after them, since the current ones always judging the latter ones' knowledge. 

That lead to a good point of view, which is an archive should be emphasize on quantity or quality? There is no guarantee an archive could be everyone wished for. It is like a society, a society itself is an archive, an archive with many categories; but if we have to narrow down the topics, the common answer will be humanity. In humanity, there are good and bad, legal and ilegal. But how do we build this archive? It was the same in WWI, there were some soldiers who did not want to go to war, and some were in contrast. 

“I can connect / Nothing with nothing.”

Oh, The Waste Land… where to start? I have read this poem a few times before, and I think that my appreciation for it grows with each subsequent reading. To start out, I wanted to discuss the malaise, the collective shellshock, so to speak, that permeates Eliot’s depiction of London in The Waste Land. While reading, I thought back to one of my favorite novels, Mrs. Dalloway—a novel that so effectively portrays this collective shellshock. While reading Eliot’s poem this week, images of Mrs. Dalloway kept surfacing in my mind—her jumping at the backfiring of an automobile, or her stopping by the church. To my amusement, the Norton Critical Edition of The Waste Land includes the following note from Virginia Woolf about the poem: “It has great beauty & force of phrase: symmetry; & tensity. What connects it together, I’m not so sure. . . . One was left . . . with some strong emotion. The Waste Land, it is called; & Mary Hutch, who has heard it more quietly, interprets it to be Tom’s autobiography—a melancholy one” (137).

In any case, because of our archival exercises and the preparatory discussion at the end of class last week, I was eager to view The Waste Land as an archive in itself. The reason I brought up Mrs. Dalloway, besides, of course, to briefly discuss shellshock, is because I think it serves as an excellent foil to The Waste Land in terms of how each work portrays a society attempting to find meaning after the war. Mrs. Dalloway looks for meaning in her parties and her high-society lifestyle, while Eliot portrays a desperate turn to the past, to the literary and artistic works that came before the war. The Waste Land furiously archives and juxtaposes everything from Dante to Wagner, from the Bible to the Brihadāranyaka Upanishad, from Baudelaire to Shakespeare, but struggles to find meaning in any of it, just as Mrs. Dalloway’s party is once again interrupted by the war through news of Septimus Smith’s suicide. Ultimately, the juxtapositions fail to illuminate meaning, leaving behind only the “strong emotion” that Woolf notes. Eliot provides “[a] heap of broken images,” but in the end, one can only “connect / Nothing with nothing” (15).

All Quiet, Combat, Things

The stereoscopic photographs drew me in during our visit to Special Collections this past Tuesday (2/20). At first the experience was a little frustrating, until I learned to prompt my eyes to synthesize the two halves into a single 3D image by focusing on something in the foreground (bottom of the frame). Once I had that down, I looked at 20 or 30 of the images and was impressed by the subject breadth of the collection. Everything from formal portraits of cleanly military quarters to combat action to the grisly results thereof. It reminded me of Remarque's descriptions of all aspects of life during the War in All Quiet on the Western Front, and also gave me a way to think about Thing Theory.

Literature of the First World War is striking for its portrayal of the Absurd: ab- (away from or outside of) -surd (the rational, or rational unit). We might understand it as prefiguring and representing a major tenet of Thing Theory: a thing, in one aspect is matter before it becomes an object or after it ceases to be one. An object, in the philosophical sense, is a construct of the mind and therefore already imbued with meaning or associations that are projected onto it. If an object may be a rational construct, then the thing to which it corresponds lies outside of that construction -- is absurd.

Confronting the inert matter of an object dehabitualizes us from its typical use and valuation (mental constructs), prompts us to perceive it differently. In one sense, Thing Theory explores the strangeness -- or the "unreality," to borrow a common term in WWI literature -- of this new relation. Bill Brown elaborates in "Thing Theory": "We begin to confront the thingness of objects when they stop working for us: when the drill breaks, when the car stalls, when the windows get filthy, when their flow within the circuits of production and distribution, consumption and exhibition, has been arrested, however momentarily. The story of the objects asserting themselves as things, then, is the story of a changed relation to the human subject and thus the story of how the thing really names less an object than a particular subject-object relation" (4).

The Thingness of humanity is perhaps the most powerful dehabitualizing characteristic of World War I literature. Brown, though not commenting on WWI, paraphrases Michael Taussig to ask a question that would work well for our literary-historical focus: "does death have the capacity both to turn people into things and to bring inanimate objects to life?" (7). The narrator of All Quiet on the Western Front, after an intense shelling, observes as a "chest leans against the side of the trench, his face is lemon-yellow, in his beard still burns a cigarette. It glows until it dies out on his lips" (128). The human body here is not differentiated ontologically from the other things that surround it. It exists on the same plane as a smoldering cigarette or the liquid remains of two other comrades sticking to the wall nearby, which Tjaden suggests could be scraped up with a spoon and buried in a tin (128). Witnessing the Thingness of the human corpse and the implements at hand confronts us with a completely desacralized relation of subject-object.

The stereoscopic photographs in Special Collections likewise document the Thingness of human remains, and all else, in No Man's Land. Photographs are representations of things and thefore already constructed as objects, which makes it difficult to dehabituate oneself from the Objecthood of the things depicted. Yet, perhaps because stereoscopic photographs create an unavoidably artificial illusion of 3D depth through their focus on several discrete planes, they call attention to the equation of things in the pictorial frame and help to effect the dehabitualization. It isn't possible to render the 3D effect here, yet even though the photos aren't synthesized parallactically in the stereoscopic viewer, we can see that human remains and other things (a helmet, the debris of what was once a tree, a horse, an altar, a fence, a wall) share the same ontological absurdity as described by Remarque and the WWI poets that we've read. Corpses in war photographs have a way of looking as though they had never been alive -- the ultimate conversation to Thingness.

The Waste Land

The Waste Land is a prose version of ruined cities and lives after WWI. It is the ambiguity of the century and human’s perplexity and absurdity. It is composed of war debris. There is no consistent meaning in The Waste Land because Eliot portrays mental issues of the inhabitants of The Waste Land. It has strange sound resembling human’s pain and suffering. People are reserved and don’t dare to talk and are afraid of being alone,

"My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me.

"Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.

"What are you thinking of? What thinking? What?

"I never know what you are thinking. Think" (111-114).

Nature is dead. There is no water. Even the wind doesn’t have sound. People doesn’t expect anything. Alive people are dying inside and it’s only their physical body that moves.  

“Who is the third who walks always beside you?

When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road

There is always another one walking beside you

Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded

I do not know whether a man or a woman

-But who is that on the other side of you?” (359-365). People have become like ghosts and pursuing unknown destinations.  

Wasteland and Lear

The dialogue in the second section of Wasteland, "A Game of Chess" reminds me of the conversation between Lear and Cordelia in King Lear. In Wasteland, the dialogue starts with "My nerves are bad to-night. Yes, bad. Stay with me. "Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak. "What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? "I never know what you are thinking. Think." From that, it reminds me how Lear was bewildered, confused, and frustrated about Cordelia's answer in the begining of the first act: "Nothing, my lord. Nothing? Nothing. Nothing will come of nothing. Speak again. Unhappy that i am, I cannot heave/My heart into my mouth. I love your majesty/According to my bond. no more nor less." The dialogue continues in Wasteland ""What is that noise?" The wind under the door. "What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?" Nothing again nothing." This part of the dialogue surprisingly matches with the expression of confusion from a king or a country. In King Lear, the country is divided into three part after the first act. In WWI, the land was divided by mutiple countries and turned into battlefields. The same confusion in both events, why the land should be divided? What does the land have done to us? However, once the land was divided, the leaders and people got punished. 

The idea of punishment continues in Wasteland, "You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember "Nothing?" I remember/Those are pearls that were his eyes. "Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?" This part reminds me of the meeting of Lear and Cordelia in Act 4. "Sir, do you know me? You are a spirit, I know. Where did you die?" In order to escape the truth, the terrible truth of punishment, the "nothing" in Wasteland matches the denial of Lear to his beloved daughter Cordelia, despite he is already safe in her and his own kingdom. That, it all leads to the archival plot setting in Wasteland and King Lear. Both start with kingdoms and countries, though they are enriched, still the decision of dividing the lands causes more denial on the truth of punishment. 

Vibrant Matter and Imagism

Let me start out by saying that this week’s readings, especially the excerpt from Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter, completely and thoroughly enchanted me. For today, in an effort to organize the abundance of thoughts bouncing around in my head relating to thing theory, I would like to focus specifically on Vibrant Matter.


In my opinion, the most fascinating part of Bennett’s “political ecology of things,” as she sub-titles her book, was her focus on “thing-power.” In Chapter 1, she writes:

            On a sunny Tuesday morning on 4 June in the grate over the storm drain to the Chesapeake
            Bay in front of Sam’s Bagels on Cold Spring Lane in Baltimore, there was:

                       one large men’s black plastic work glove

                       one dense mat of oak pollen

                       one unblemished dead rat

                       one white plastic bottle cap

                       one smooth stick of wood

            Glove, pollen, rat, cap, stick. As I encountered these items, they shimmied back and forth
            between debris and thing—between, on the one hand, stuff to ignore, except insofar
            as it betokened human activity (the workman’s efforts, the litterer’s toss,
            the rat-poisoner’s success), and, on the other hand, stuff that commanded attention in its
            own right, as existents in excess of their association with human meanings, habits, or projects.

She continues, referring again to the list of objects, “[T]hey were all there just as they were, and so I caught a glimpse of an energetic vitality inside each of these things, things that I generally conceived as inert. In this assemblage, objects appeared as things, that is, as vivid entities not entirely reducible to the contexts in which (human) subjects set them, never entirely exhausted by their semiotics” (5). While reading these passages, I was struck by how similar it sounded to the way I learned to write poetry from my absolutely amazing undergraduate creative writing professor. Specifically, Bennett’s argument reminded me of imagism and the desire to accurately portray an image. As Ezra Pound suggested in “A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste,” one should strive for “[d]irect treatment of the ‘thing,’ whether subjective or objective.” I think also of William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow”:

            so much depends



            a red wheel



            glazed with rain



            beside the white


The image of this wheelbarrow, and thus, the wheelbarrow itself, seems to exert the thing-power that Bennett describes; as Bennet would say, it vibrates.


Later in the same chapter, I was intrigued by Bennett’s argument that vital materiality does not lessen humanity. She writes:

            If matter itself is lively, then not only is the difference between subjects and
            objects minimized, but the status of shared materiality of all things is elevated. All bodies
            become more than mere objects, as the thing-powers of resistance and protean agency are
            brought into a sharper relief. . . . The ethical aim becomes to distribute value more generously,
            to bodies as such . . . [which] can inspire a greater sense of the extent to which all bodies are
            kin in the sense of inextricably enmeshed in a dense network of relations. And in a knotted
            world of vibrant matter, to harm one section of the web may very well be to harm oneself. (13)

Essentially, Bennett writes that looking at all matter as vibrant connects humans to each other and to the rest of the world in a way that the current “model[s] of personhood” do not typically allow (13). I will admit that I am usually disillusioned with arguments supporting materialism, but as Bennett writes, “American materialism,” in effect, “is antimateriality” (5). Materialism, especially what she calls vital materialism, instead relates to understanding the vibrancy of matter as she describes above.

The Lasting Cultural and Literary Impact

Paul Fussell really elaborates on the lasting cultural and literary impact of World War I in a chapter titled “Persistence and Memory.” Some notable key features of this chapter include the similarities between memoirs and novels, the living memory of war, and the symbolism and imagery of World War I.

Fussell argues that both memoirs and first-person novels are similar in form, but the key difference is that memoirs adhere to facts and call for collected events, and that the boundary between the two genres is unclear. clearly (p. 336). From these arguments, in my opinion, first-person novels can also be considered memoirs because they are essentially the author's experience, and the novel is what the author wants to send through words.

Vivid memories of war still linger because of the brutality of the events, the irony that accompanied them, the psychology of crisis, and even the guilt of cowardly acts. or cruelty, which suggests that memories become an indispensable moral task (Fussell 354). Taking the Vietnam War as an example, I can see that literary works related to war crimes are mentioned many times in the general education curriculum, and I am not surprised that the Vietnamese government also regularly mention these events with banners placed on both sides of the road or in buildings.

Finally, Fussell also addresses the symbols and images of the First World War that still exist in Britain in everyday life in different ways – such as pub closing times, summer time…, or the use of paper money, which demonstrates that the war had a cultural and economic impact (Fussell 341). Fussell shows that ordinary foods such as eggs and chips also become wartime tracers when referring to food shortages and soldiers' diets during World War I (p. 342 ).

Narrative and Nation

One of the first things that stuck out to me after finishing All Quiet on the Western Front was the relative reliability of the novel’s first narrator (I say first since a second narrator appears at the very end of the novel when we learn of Paul’s passing in October 1918). My previous experiences with war novels were Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) and Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carrier (1990), in which the unreliability of the narrator is one of the defining features of these novels. Yet in Remarque’s text, the narrator has a relatively frank and honest narrative voice. Where the narrative lapses is in moments when Paul simply cannot find the words to describe the war. A moment of his frank reliability that in the narrative discourse is unreliability is perhaps best seen when he goes to see Kemmerich’s mother after his death, and to spare her the gruesome details of her son’s slow death, he narrates “I have to tell how it happened, so I invent a story and I almost believe it myself” (181). Paul only unreliably narrates events to other characters to spare them the details of the terror and horror of the war front; to the reader, he is unflinching in his gory descriptions of body parts, rotting corpses, and the intensity of violence constantly bombarding him and his regiment. He only withholds in moments when the words simply cannot capture the feeling, such as when Kemmerich’s mother first hears the news: “I cannot write that down” (180). This relative reliability stands in contrast to the other war novels I’ve read, and I wonder if other Great War novels treat their narration in the same way—it begs the question that are narratives of war unreliable?; or, is our language to elusive and to weak to capture the sheer incomprehensibility of that level of human suffering, and the language and modes of narrative address fracture, crumble, and break as a result of that suffering.

 It was also interesting to read a novel from the perspectives of the Germans. So often the literature I come across seems to be from the perspective of the English, as in most of our World War I poets and the modernists who recounted their experiences of the war. In many ways, Germany is taught in U.S. history as “the enemy” of both World Wars, but the novel points out how arbitrary enemies truly are. This is perhaps best summarized in the following passage:

            “It’s queer, when one thinks about it,” goes on Kropp, “we are here to protect our fatherland. And the French are over there to protect their fatherland. Now who’s in the right?”

            “Perhaps both,” I say without believing it.

            “Yes, well now,” pursues Albert, and I see that he means to drive me into a corner, “but our professors and parsons and newspapers say that we are the only ones that are right, and let’s hope so;--but French professors and parsons and newspapers say the right is on their side, now what about that?”

            “That I don’t know,” I say, “but whichever way is is there’s war all the same and every month more countries coming in.” [203-04]

This exchange, which questions the idea of right versus wrong in the war, is then followed up by an interesting rumination on the difference between country and state, and the nature of how wars begin: not between the land, the people, or even the culture—but as the result of a few heads of that mysteriously configured “State.” This scene anticipates a later scene in the novel when Paul kills his first man in hand-to-hand combat, where he mourns afterwards that before the enemy solider had just been an “idea…an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response” (223). Now, he realizes they are both just human, with their own mothers, lives, and fears of death. He laments “Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy?” (223). These ruminations posit the absurdity of war and the fictitious labels that were fabricated to enable it: the “enemy,” the “State,” and “national pride.” The novel perfects captures the feelings of futility, hopelessness, and apparent baselessness that becomes a powerful theme among the WWI poets, modernists, and other war-time and post-war writers.

Thoughts on Remarque's novel

This is one the most painful novel I’ve ever read.

The writer, Remarque, demonstrates different aspects of being in a war. He depicts horrible scenes of war, soldiers’ development during war, their reactions to death, loss and loneliness, their perception of reality, and notions of individuality and belonging. Paul, along with his school mates, carries away to the Great War without having any specific and realistic presupposition and they face war rules, trench life, and reality of war which shatter their expectations, “To me the front is a mysterious whirlpool. Though I am in still water far away from its centre, I feel the whirl of the vortex sucking me slowly, irresistibly, inescapably into itself” (27). The novel goes on by depicting soldiers’ situation and difficulties, both mentally and physically. After being in front line, the writer emphasizes on how a soldier is detached from his past personality even in his early 20th. In some scenes, the writer talks about soldiers’ different attitude from others because they fight in reality and experience the real war, “The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces. While they continued to write and talk, we saw the wounded and dying. While they taught that duty to one's country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. But for all that we were no mutineers, no deserters, no cowards—they were very free with all these expressions. We loved our country as much as they; we went courageously into every action; but also we distinguished the false from true, we had suddenly learned to see. And we saw that there was nothing of their world left. We were all at once terribly alone; and alone we must see it through” (10). Moreover, Paul is not an individual anymore and whatever he experiences is somehow similar to his peers because he becomes as a member of a group fighting in front line.

"And we saw that there was nothing of their world left."

What an amazing novel! Given the subject of this course, I wanted to begin by discussing the erasure of cultural memory that Remarque describes in the second chapter of the novel. At the beginning of the second chapter, Paul states, “We young men of twenty, however, have only our parents, and some, perhaps, a girl . . . Besides this there was little else—some enthusiasm, a few hobbies, and our school. Beyond this our life did not extend. And of this, nothing remains. . . . We had as yet taken no root. The war swept us away” (20). Later, describing his initial training, he continues, “We learned that a bright button is weightier than four volumes of Schopenhauer. At first astonished, then embittered, and finally indifferent, we recognized that what matters is not the mind but the boot brush, not intelligence but the system, not freedom but drill. . . . With our young, awakened eyes we saw that the classical conception of the Fatherland held by our teachers resolved itself here into a renunciation of personality such as one would not ask of the meanest servants” (22). In both of these examples, Paul and his fellow soldiers are being stripped of the cultural memory that they had previously developed. All the knowledge that was useful or desirable before the war is replaced by “salutes, springing to attention, parade-marches, presenting arms, right wheel, left wheel, clicking the heels, insults, and a thousand pettifogging details” (22).

Under the surface here, I think there might rest the latent question of how a society that produced works such as Schopenhauer’s could also produce this senseless war. Paul and his peers feel betrayed by those whom they previously admired, such as Kantorek, who “were convinced that they were acting for the best—in a way that cost them nothing” (12). The Kantoreks of the world could not adequately prepare the younger generation for the horrors they would soon face, even though they subjected people such as Paul to “long lectures” encouraging participation in the war effort (11). Through exposure to the war, the younger generation realizes that they are “all at once terribly alone”; as Paul claims, “[O]ur generation was more to be trusted than theirs,” and, finally, Paul and his peers “saw that there was nothing of [the older generation’s] world left” (13). The world for which Paul and the other soldiers are prepared to give their lives is also the world in which “the wrong people do the fighting,” a world that gave them hope for the future and then shattered it by sending them to fight in a meaningless war. As Katczinsky succinctly remarks, “Give ‘em all the same grub and all the same pay / And the war would be over and done in a day” (41).

Relatedly, I thought that Remarque did an excellent job of portraying the internal war, so to speak, between the inherent innocence and youthfulness of the soldiers and the toughness and cynicism that they must show in the actual war. While describing the punishment that he went through during training, Paul states, “We became hard, suspicious, pitiless, vicious, tough—and that was good; for these attributes were just what we lacked” (26). However, despite this hardness, their youthfulness still rests under the surface. For instance, Paul admits, “[W]hen we go bathing and strip, suddenly we have slender legs again and slight shoulders. We are no longer soldiers but little more than boys” (29). He continues, “It is a strange moment when we stand naked; then we become civilians, and almost feel ourselves to be so” (29). With the removal of their gear, they revert to a pre-war state—or, at least, a facsimile of one. Perhaps, in this way, the young soldiers are partially preserving cultural memory. Perhaps, the Great War has not entirely “swept [them] away” (20).

I have plenty of other thoughts, but in the interest of keeping this post brief, I will save them for our class discussion!

The One in Charge Decide the Truth

The novel All Quiet on the Western Front is a piece of literature work has strong kickback after the reading. The story from the novel itself only half "quiet" as the title shows. I guess, perhaps, the reason why the title has "quiet" is not because of the silence from the trenchs, or the fear that seals the mouths of the soldiers. In my opinion, the real reason that cause the dead quite in WWI, which is the soldiers could not tell the truth on what they really had been through. It has been mention multiple times in the novel, at page 113, "I will never tell her, she can make mincement out of me first." Even the leading character of the novel, Paul could not tell the truth of his friend's death to his mother. At page 101, ""With the gas and rest of it." She does not know what she is saying," Paul was trying to deny his mother receving the truth from the battlefield. That cause Paul to feel anxious to face his mother and the world without the war. "I was a soldier, and now I am nothing but an agony for myself, for my mother, for everything that is so comfortless and without end." (116). 

It has an interesting but cruel point of view in here: should the soldiers tell the truth? If they tell the truth, would they face the trial from military? If they lie, they get to survive for another day, or maybe longer. It is a tricky logic in here. They have to lie to their familes in order to survive, despite they have been through countless tragedies on the battlefield. Is it truly worth it to be on the battlefield as a young man and die without telling the truth? Unfortunately, when the war began, military took over, therefore, only through lying could survive the war. Those who told the truth were already dead. 

Short Analysis of Two WWI poems

In Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier,” the speaker presents a fervent patriotism that serves to justify the war or hostility between England and her enemies; he regards the enemy's territory as "a foreign field / That is for ever England," and, as a loyal soldier of England, he feels compelled to reclaim the occupied land for its motherland. Encouraging the reader to adopt a similar mindset, the speaker not only seeks to justify the ongoing conflict but also aims to inspire others with the vision of an "English heaven" adorned with "flowers," "English air," "rivers," "laughter," "friends," and "peace." Implicitly suggesting the concept of martyrdom, the speaker presents two scenarios for the English soldiers: in the event of victory, they will be knighted for extending the "richer dust" of England, while in the case of defeat or death, they will ascend to a heaven suffused with all the memories of England. In comparison to Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier," Isaac Rosenberg's "Break of Day in the Trenches" explores the theme of war from a different perspective, offering a distinct ambiance and message. While Brooke's poem, seemingly narrating the early days of the war, serves as a source of inspiration for both English soldiers and readers, Rosenberg's poem portrays a mundane and repetitive day amid the chaos of war, where the soldier has become disillusioned and questions the purpose of the war or hostility between himself and his enemy. Rosenberg's poem attributes a posthuman significance to the role of the rat, suggesting the modernist theme of epiphany as the speaker becomes disoriented in time and space and gets lost in contemplation. Similar to Brooke, Rosenberg also encourages the reader to "think"; however, while Brooke's invitation is to embrace a pro-war stance, Rosenberg prompts the reader to reconsider the rationale behind the war and challenge the notion of human centrality (anthropocentricism) in the world. The latter’s purpose is exemplified in Rosenberg's depiction of the rat's unique “chance[]” to touch two enemies’ hands and pass their borders without their consent, while they are “sleeping,” suggesting a critique of the arbitrary partitions and conflicts imposed by humans.