‘Incurable Sores on Innocent Tongues’: The Language of Pain in World War I Poetry

Nayef A. Al-Joulan


This paper adopts Elaine Scarry’s ideas about the unsharability of pain through its resistance to language, by which pain not only resists language but also actively destroys it, and that pain can only be effectively described when the human voice only become visible. Through close analysis of a representative sample of World War I verse, this article examines the mechanisms war poets used to express pain. I turns out that these poets reflected anxieties against the difficulty of expressing and communicating pain and adopted visualizing and ekphrastic mechanisms and suggestive symbols to overcome that difficulty, by which they have managed to share pain and communicate it. Their broken grammar and lines, as well as the shattered music of their verses, are in themselves prerequisites for the truthful communication of pain. As such, they provided a mechanism by which any painful experience may be communicated, thus posing as successful advocates of revolt against all sorts of silencing and blinding public awareness. They are protectors of vision and voice.
Key words: Language; Communication; Pain; World War I Poetry; Ekphrasis

Resumé: Ce document adopte les idées d'Elaine Scarry sur la nature non partageable de la douleur à travers sa résistance à la langue. La douleur peut non seulement résister à la langue mais aussi la détruire activement. Et la douleur ne peut être efficacement décrite que lorsque la voix humaine devient visible. Grace à une analyse approfondie d'un échantillon représentatif du verset de la Première Guerre mondiale, cet article examine les mécanismes des poètes de la guerre pour exprimer la douleur. Il s'avère que ces poètes ont reflété des angoisses contre la difficulté d'exprimer et la douleur de communiquer et ont adopté des mécanismes de visualisation, des mécanismes ekphrastiques et des symboles suggestifs pour surmonter cette difficulté, par lequel ils ont réussi à partager la douleur et la communiquer. Leurs grammaire et lignes brisées, ainsi que la musique brisée de leurs vers, sont en eux-mêmes des conditions préalables à la communication véridique de la douleur. Du coup, ils ont fourni un mécanisme par lequel toute expérience douloureuse peut être communiquée, ce qui se pose comme les défenseurs de la révolte contre toutes sortes de silence et de sensibilisation aveuglante du public. Ils sont les protecteurs de la vision et la voix.
Mots-clés: Langue; Communication; Douleur; Poésie De La Première Guerre Mondiale; Ekphrastique


Language; Communication; Pain; World War I Poetry; Ekphrasis;Langue; Communication; Douleur; Poésie De La Première Guerre Mondiale; Ekphrastique


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3968/j.ccc.1923670020110702.013


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