Alan Seeger: medievalism as an alternative ideology

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dc.contributor.author Dayton, Tim
dc.date.accessioned 2013-03-05T17:20:04Z
dc.date.available 2013-03-05T17:20:04Z
dc.date.issued 2012-12-07
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2097/15337
dc.description.abstract The American poet Alan Seeger imagined the First World War as an opportunity to realize medieval values, which were embodied for him in Sir Philip Sidney. Sidney epitomized Seeger’s three ideals: “Love and Arms and Song,” which contrasted with the materialism and sophistication of modernity. His embrace of “Arms” and the desire for intense, authentic experience led Seeger, who was living in Paris in August 1914, to enlist in the French Foreign Legion, in which he served until his death in combat in July 1916. As an infantryman Seeger had extensive experience of the Western front. This concrete experience of the war, of the indignities of life in the trenched and the dominance of technology, contrasted in significant ways with war as constructed in Seeger’s medievalist imagination. Seeger, however, reconciled this contradiction by seeing the war as part of the elemental Strife of nature. By this means, Seeger avoided the potentially unsettling consequences of confronting the profoundly modern nature of the war. Interpreting the war as a form of “Strife” and as an assertion of medieval values allowed Seeger to imagine himself and his comrades to be living outside the world of industrial capitalist modernity. Seeger shared with others involved in the war this medievalism and the belief that the war offered relief from the values of modernity, even if Seeger’s medievalism was more intense, more thoroughgoing, than was common. However, Seeger’s death as a result of wounds received from machine gun fire vividly displays the contradiction between his imagination and the reality of industrialized warfare. The example of Seeger thus suggests that the American effort in the First World War was underwritten in part by an ideology through which a modern, industrialized war was embraced in terms derived from the imagined medieval past. Insofar as this is true medievalism functioned to provide an ideology that constructed, in the terminology of Raymond Williams, an alternative to the industrial capitalist modernity from which the war emerged, an alternative ideology that allowed the war to be imagined differently from what it was, but which posed no substantive challenge to the war’s social and economic realities. en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.relation.uri http://doi.org/10.1080/19475020.2012.728698 en_US
dc.rights This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s). en_US
dc.rights.uri http://rightsstatements.org/vocab/InC/1.0/
dc.subject War poetry en_US
dc.subject Alan Seeger en_US
dc.subject Medievalism en_US
dc.subject Ideology en_US
dc.subject Modernity en_US
dc.title Alan Seeger: medievalism as an alternative ideology en_US
dc.type Article (author version) en_US
dc.date.published 2012 en_US
dc.citation.doi 10.1080/19475020.2012.728698 en_US
dc.citation.epage 144 en_US
dc.citation.issue 2 en_US
dc.citation.jtitle First World War Studies en_US
dc.citation.spage 125 en_US
dc.citation.volume 3 en_US
dc.contributor.authoreid tadayton en_US


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