The Poetry of War

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Poets from Homer to Bruce Springsteen have given voice to the intensity, horror, and beauty of war. The greatest war poets praise the victor while mourning the victim; they honor the dead while raising deep questions about the meaning of honor. Poets have given memorable expression to the personal motives that send men forth to fight: idealism, shame, comradeship, revenge. They have also helped shape the larger ideas that nations and cultures invoke as incentives for warfare: patriotism, religion, empire, chivalry, freedom. The Poetry of War shows how poets have shaped and questioned our basic ideas about warfare. Reading great poetry, Winn argues, can help us make informed political judgments about current wars. From the poems he discusses, readers will learn how soldiers in past wars felt about their experiences, and why poets in many periods and cultures have embraced war as a grand and challenging subject.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Poetry of War offers compelling evidence that poetry has played an important role in shaping how both soldiers and civilians have viewed war for thousands years...Winn is writing not only for his fellow literary scholars but also for anyone who cares about war and truth"
-David Rachels, Virginia Military Institute, The Journal of Military History

"...a lucid, elegantly reasoned analysis of war poetry...A necessary resource for those interested in war poetry, this book deserves a broad audience." —CHOICE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521710220
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/29/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 254
  • Product dimensions: 5.43 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

James Anderson Winn is Professor of English at Boston University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: terrible beauty; 1. Honor and memory; 2. Shame and slaughter; 3. The cost of empire; 4. The myth of chivalry; 5. Comrades in arms; 6. The cause of liberty; Index.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 18, 2010

    Captivating. The poems chosen all have their own beauty.

    The compilation has been so thoroughly researched and the introductions tell the history of the poetry, so that you not only appreciate the beauty and power of each poem, but can place it in its own time.
    The horror of war has moved so many to write movingly and strongly over centuries.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2008

    The Poetry of War: A Superb Book

    War brings out the best in us¿heroism, nobility, and sacrifice¿and the worst in us¿hatred, savagery, and vengefulness. From ancient times to the present, poets have explored the experience of war. War is a subject of most of the great western epics¿the Iliad, Aeneid, Beowulf, Chanson de Roland, Paradise Lost, etc. War is the subject for modern day popular poet such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. To better understand the relationship between war and poetry, I read The Poetry of War, by James Winn. Though a professor of English at Boston University, Winn writes in a clear compelling a clear and avoids academic jargon. What is like to face death or to kill another man? Perhaps only a poet can convey a sense of the emotions of men at war. Winn shows how poets from Homer to Randall Jarrell have praised heroes while raising questions about the basic nature of heroism, celebrated victors but wondered about the ultimate bitter fruits of victory, and found the passion and energy of war both enthralling and repulsive. While awaiting the poet who can explain what we are doing in Iraq, I recommend that you read The Poetry of War.

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