Scaling war: poetic calibration and mythic measures in David Jones’s In Parenthesis

Wolf, Hope (2017) Scaling war: poetic calibration and mythic measures in David Jones’s In Parenthesis. In: McLoughlin, Kate and Das, Santanu (eds.) The First World War: literature, culture, modernity. British Academy. (Accepted)

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Abstract

David Jones’s In Parenthesis (1937) counters the reduction of the First World War to shorthand metaphors. The poem foregrounds how cliché, idioms and proverbs, transported to the battlefield, literalise. Drawing attention to the violence figured in everyday language, Jones faces a conundrum: How to call for a recalibration of the scale by which experience is measured without invoking ‘sense of proportion’, and, in so doing, laying down a universalising law? The question arises from consideration of the breaking of measuring instruments in the poem, and also Jones’s depiction of those who attempt to impose abstract standards unilaterally upon others. A partial resolution to the problematic connection between proportion and conversion is found in myth. Mythical analogy makes for a long and complex process of weighing up. Jones’s frustrations with the measuring instruments available to him can be linked to a more general attempt, one that has been associated with modernism, to find new representational modes. In Parenthesis seeks out means of communicating the excessive quality of war experiences without falling back on conventions and aggressive hyperbole.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Depositing User: Hope Wolf
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 15:21
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2016 15:21
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/65898

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