The first Authors @Alden event of the academic year will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and will feature British author, critic and poet John Greening, editor of a new edition of Edmund Blunden’s World War One (WWI) memoir, “Undertones of War.” Greening will discuss Blunden and the poetry of WWI in a conversation with Nicole Reynolds, associate professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and one of the organizers of the event.
Blunden’s memoir, although published in 1928 and written in response to the First World War, is still incredibly relevant today, especially in our current political climate, explained Reynolds. The new edition of the publication points to the relevance and significance of WWI and highlights the consequences of the geopolitical decisions from the war that we are still dealing with to this day.
“WWI is still a heavily studied topic with classes offered here at Ohio University on the subject. It is relevant to the entire trajectory of 20th century history and beyond. The ways in which and the degree to which the war was documented in literature, poetry and art was unprecedented. The ways in which it has since been memorialized also changed how people look at and understand war, soldiers’ experiences, and the long-term repercussions on veterans and society,” said Miriam Intrator, special collections librarian and one of the organizers of the event.
“Undertones of War” is a 1928 memoir written by English poet Edmund Blunden that recounts the devastating and heart-wrenching experiences of combat. Blunden discusses his participation in the battles at Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele, after enlisting in the military when he was twenty. The memoir provides a first-person account of trench warfare, as well as Blunden’s thoughts on war and his unique position of being both a soldier and a poet. Reynolds said he survived the war only to continually relive it in his poetry and prose.
“His writing is, in the end, very personal. It’s about his affection for that ‘Band of Brothers’ in his battalion (all from Sussex on the south coast of England), for his old school-friends, many of whom fought and died alongside him; and it’s about his own extraordinary and improbable survival in the face of some of the worst battles of the war,” stated Greening.
Over the course of his 60-year career, Blunden received the Hawthornden Prize, held the Oxford Professorship of Poetry, served on the Imperial War Graves Commission, and was named the Commander of the Order of the British Empire and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Blunden also wrote or contributed to nearly 500 books and pamphlets and made over 3,000 contributions to periodicals and newspapers ranging from book reviews to literary and scholarly essays.
In addition to being a prolific writer, Blunden was also a collector of books and managed to accumulate nearly 10,000 volumes ranging from 17th century to 20th century British literature to natural history and art. After his passing in 1974, Blunden’s family decided to sell his personal library, and Ohio University eventually purchased the collection in the 1980s. It is now held in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections.
The Authors @Alden event coincides with Armistice Day and the centenary of the First World War, a four-year commemoration with events happening around the world, that began on August 4, 2014 and will end on November 11, 2018. Like Reynolds, Greening believes that “Undertones of War” contains a wealth of information that is just as pertinent in 2018 as it was a 100 years ago and highlights many parallels between today and the years leading up to WWI.
Accompanying the Authors @Alden event featuring John Greening, will be an exhibit titled, “Bringing Them Home: Edmund Blunden’s Books and the Memory of the First World War.” The exhibit opens on Oct. 9 at 5:30 p.m. and will be on display on the fifth floor of Alden Library throughout the fall semester. Greening will also be giving a poetry reading of his original work on Nov. 9 at 4:30 p.m. in Baker 341, and engaging in conversations with undergraduate, graduate and Honors Tutorial College students. All events are free and open to the public. For more information on these activities, contact Miriam Intrator.
To request accessibility accommodations for this event, please contact Jennifer Harvey.