'Isn't this worth fighting for?' The First World War and the (ab)uses of the pastoral tradition

Christine Berberich*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


    For hundreds of years, the English countryside has been used as the most effective evocation of Englishness: in times of war and peace it has been conjured up, by the English and non-English alike, to express nostalgia and hope, a sense of belonging, a yearning for home; and as something that needs to be defended at all cost. However, the political dimension of this use of the countryside is still often ignored. This chapter examines how the English landscape was propagandistically held up to the soldiers of the Great War as ‘what they were fighting for’; and how some select literature of the Great War subverts this notion. The chapter will be divided into three parts. The first part will set the theoretical framework that defines my use of terms such as ‘pastoral’. Here I will briefly outline the historical and ideological development that saw the elevation of the countryside to a marker of Englishness as part of a conscious effort to mould an imagined body of the nation. The second part will assess three different wartime ‘visions’ of England as green and pleasant land, taking examples from propaganda (a recruitment poster), literature (an anthology for soldiers in the trenches) and music (‘Jerusalem’, the popular anthem based on William Blake’s verse, ‘And did those feet in ancient time’, from his Preface to Milton). All three visions take recourse to stereotypical depictions of England.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationConflict, Nationhood and Corporeality in Modern Literature
    Subtitle of host publicationBodies-at-War
    EditorsPetra Rau
    PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Electronic)9780230289802
    ISBN (Print)9780230231528
    Publication statusPublished - 11 Aug 2010


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