This is the last thing I need to be doing! I should be polishing my Villette paper, outlining my Mina Loy paper or reacting to Richard Gere is my Hero, the film we just watched in Tibet and Film Studies.
But reading “The Wasteland” by T.S. Eliot today really piqued my interest in the depiction of shell shocked victims in Modernist literature. There is a World War I veteran who could be interpreted as shell-shocked in the first part of the poem “1. The Burial of the Dead” which is the closest in proximity to the introduction in Ancient Greek and Latin, as well contains the quote that brings up questions of nationality during a time of war “Bin gar keine Russin, stamm’ aus Litauen, echt deutsch.” which is “I am not Russian at all; I come from Lithuania, a true German” in German. Also there is a quote from Wagner’s opera in German “Tristan und Isolde” and allusions to the poetry of Charles Baudelaire.
Well this reminded me severely of Septimus Warren Smith from my favorite Modernist novel, Mrs. Dalloway, who hallucinates that the birds are speaking to him in Greek. While this hallucination comes from Virginia Woolf’s own, I think there may be a connection between this break down of language and the break down of cultural identity that comes from such a disillusioning war like World War I for the British.
So I think I’ll be doing some independent research over my spring break concerning whether this comes up again in other Modernist works concerning World War I’s disillusionment with cultural identity or other works concerning other wars.