“A Very Literary War: British Trench Poets and the Survival of Robert Graves”

The Great War originated in Europe and had a global impact from July of 1914 until November of 1918. In April of 1917 United States President Woodrow Wilson went before Congress to request a declaration of war on Germany. The U.S. was involved in “the war to end all wars” for one year, seven months, and five days, but the influence on men and women lasted much longer.

On April 20, 2017, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m., the Stillwater Museum Association and the Sheerar Museum of Stillwater History will welcome Dr. R. E. Graalman, Jr. for “A Very Literary War: British Trench Poets and the Survival of Robert Graves.” This presentation will introduce young writers such as Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, and Isaac Rosenberg, before focusing on one who actually survived long into the twentieth century, Robert Graves, in spite of being wounded, carted away, and declared dead in battle. The various periods of his brilliant and long literary career reflect a pattern of cultural myth and personal transformation, and his “one story only” reminds us of what was lost in the trenches for those fated to die – and a century-long recognition that “the war to end all wars” was, in fact, merely a beginning.

The emerging brutal efficiency of World War I armaments, and the extent of the stalemate that devolved into trench warfare, surprised combatants who expected quick victories and feats of individual valor to be reported “back home.” The eventual revulsion over the carnage is caught perfectly through the works of the so-called “British Trench Poets,” who initially charged happily into the fray, only to experience miserable conditions and witness how technology had forever altered the practice of war.

Dr. Graalman graduated from Fairview High School in 1965 and received bachelors and masters degrees in Political Science and English from Oklahoma State University. He earned a PhD. in English from the University of Tulsa in 1978. After teaching at TU, Cascia Hall High School in Tulsa, Tulsa Community College, and Illinois State University, Dr. Graalman returned to OSU in 1981 where he became an administrator and adjunct faculty member until retiring in 2014. He was the founding president of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors, and currently enjoys his position as Vice-President of the Board of Education, Stillwater Public Schools.

The Sheerar Museum is a non-profit museum administered by the Stillwater Museum Association Board of Trustees. For more information about Dr. Graalman’s presentation, a free event in the museum auditorium, contact Director Roger Moore, at (405)377-0359.

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