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Sacrifice and Modern War LiteratureThe Battle of Waterloo to the War on Terror$
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Alex Houen and Jan-Melissa Schramm

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198806516

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198806516.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 23 October 2019

Bare Death

Bare Death

The Failing Sacrifice of the First World War

Chapter:
(p.92) 6 Bare Death
Source:
Sacrifice and Modern War Literature
Author(s):

Vincent Sherry

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198806516.003.0007

In representations of the First World War (1914–1918), the figure of the sacrificial offering appears and reappears to consecrate an otherwise uncertain purpose—to make holy, sacer- facere. On the military side, in Britain especially, the war witnessed a shift from a professional army to a civilian recruit, u a conscript mass, whose individual deaths required justification. The figure of the sacrificial offering recurs with a frequency commensurate with the scale of this first mass war. This quantity of death, however, ultimately overwhelms the logic of sacrifice, which turns on the quality, the specialness, the worthiness, of the individual victim. Drawing on the philosophy of Giorgio Agamben, this chapter argues that the proportionate economy of individual sacrifice is eventually disrupted by indiscriminate slaughter, and the failure of the old model is recorded in a range of British fiction, including works by Richard Aldington, Ford Madox Ford, and David Jones.

Keywords:   First World War, Giorgio Agamben, bare life, Richard Aldington, Ford Madox Ford, David Jones

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