Keynote Lectures

Titles and Abstracts (provisional)

Prof. Randall Stevenson

Hoarse Oaths that Kept our Courage Straight: The Great War, (Bad) Language and Silence

The Great War’s influences on language and representation are well documented.  The effects of censorship and propaganda have been widely discussed; likewise, the inventiveness and vitality of soldiers’ own discourses in forms of slang and the vernacular.  Understandably, less attention has been paid to the role in this discourse of obscenity and blasphemy – of swearing, generally. Poets and commentators do mention its use, and importance, but swear-words themselves have vanished fairly comprehensively – or been excised – from published texts.  This lecture uses some of Robert Graves’s reflections in the 1920s to discuss this excision, along with its implications for language, silence and authenticity in Great War writing — and in later literature, modernism included.