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The First World WarLiterature, Culture, Modernity$
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Santanu Das and Kate McLoughlin

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266267

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266267.001.0001

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Imbalances: Mass Death and the Economy of ‘Sacrifice’ in the Great War

Imbalances: Mass Death and the Economy of ‘Sacrifice’ in the Great War

(p.74) 4 Imbalances: Mass Death and the Economy of ‘Sacrifice’ in the Great War
The First World War

Vincent Sherry

British Academy

This essay engages the values, attitudes, and practices of ‘sacrifice’ in the cultural history and literary and visual representations of the Great War (discussing works by Richard Aldington, David Jones and Ford Madox Ford). It demonstrates how extensively the idea of sacrifice was appealed to in the official record, and it shows how this political construction was responded to, almost always critically and negatively, in a literature of major record. The chief ideas turn around the fact that a sacrificial victim, in order to be effective, needs to be ‘worth’ a good deal; this calculation is profoundly altered in the ongoing, increasingly wholesale character of slaughter in the war. This disenchantment provides a major point of reference for our understanding of the war as a watershed in European and world-cultural history.

Keywords:   First World War, sacrifice, victim, mass slaughter, cultural history, Richard Aldington, David Jones, Ford Madox Ford

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