News of War: Civilian Poetry 1936–1945 by Rachel Galvin (review)


Rachel Galvin’s News of War: Civilian Poetry 1936–1945 is a focused and forceful study of six major modernist poets who crafted similar styles in response to WWII and the Spanish Civil War: César Vallejo, W.H. Auden, Wallace Stevens, Raymond Queneau, Marianne Moore, and Gertrude Stein. A chapter is dedicated to each of these poets, with the exception of Auden, in many respects the book’s central figure, who is treated in two consecutive chapters. As can be seen in her choice of poets, Gavin’s approach is transnational and multilingual. This allows her to draw startling parallels between poets who, though given ample critical attention individually, are rarely mentioned in the same breath. It also allows her to raise an important ethical question that haunts writers from many historical periods and cultural traditions and continues to resonate today: what is the poet’s responsibility during wartime? Galvin offers a provocative and unconventional answer to this question by broadening the category of war poetry and troubling the way literary authority is ascribed. As such, this work is an invaluable contribution to scholars and students of comparative literature, poetry and cultural studies.

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