English Poetry of the First World War (Online)

Course summary

  • Mon 17 Sep 2018 to Fri 30 Nov 2018
  • Online
  • From £270.00
  • 10 CATS points
  • Course code O18P340LTV
  • onlinecourses@conted.ox.ac.uk
  • Applications being accepted

English Poetry of the First World War (Online)


Some of the most powerful and moving English poetry of the modern period was written during or about the First World War. We will examine the context of that poetry by exploring the life and writing of 3 major war poets, Owen, Rosenberg and Sassoon.

Some poets were in favour of the war, celebrating the 'happy warrior', proud to give his life for his country; some represented the horror and what Owen called the 'pity' of war. We will take the opportunity to explore a wide range of First World War poetry as well as undertaking the in-depth analysis of the life and writing of our three focus poets.

For information on how the courses work, and a link to our course demonstration site, please click here.

Programme details

Unit 1 - The First World War

  • What was the First World War?
  • Learning about the First World War
  • Battlefields
  • Trench warfare
  • The Great War and modern memory: myth and iconography
  • Personal accounts of the First World War

Unit 2 - Representations of war

  • Representations of war
  • Memoirs
  • Film
  • Paintings and sculpture
  • Comparing representations
  • Analysing poetry I – poetry that represents war

Unit 3 - Classifying war poetry

  • War poetry
  • Pro-war poetry I
  • Pro-war poetry II ‘Vitai Lampada’
  • Pro-war poetry III

Unit 4 - Rupert Brooke

  • Rupert Brooke
  • The poetry of Rupert Brooke
  • Georgian poetry

Unit 5 - Siegfried Sassoon

  • The life of Siegfried Sassoon I – Innocence
  • The life of Siegfried Sassoon II – Experience
  • The poetry of Siegfried Sassoon – Themes
  • Analysing poetry II
  • Analysing the poetry of Siegfried Sassoon
  • Conscientious objectors

Unit 6 - Isaac Rosenberg

  • Life of Isaac Rosenberg
  • Poetry of Isaac Rosenberg I
  • Poetry of Isaac Rosenberg II
  • Art of Isaac Rosenberg

Unit 7 - Wilfred Owen I

  • Early life of Wilfred Owen
  • Wilfred Owen’s military career before Craiglockhart
  • Craiglockhart
  • After Craiglockhart
  • Wilfred Owen’s poems and manuscripts

Unit 8 - Wilfred Owen II

  • Owen the poet
  • Context and subjects of Owen’s poetry
  • ‘Strange Meeting’
  • Disabled
  • ‘Dulce et Decorum est’

Unit 9 - Women and the First World War

  • Women and the home front
  • Women and the armed forces
  • Women writers of the First World War
  • Poetry by women versus poetry for women

Unit 10 - Other poets of the First World War

  • ‘Anon.’ and poets of other nationalities
  • Edmund Blunden
  • Robert Graves
  • Ivor Gurney
  • Herbert Read

We strongly recommend that you try to find a little time each week to engage in the online conversations (at times that are convenient to you) as the forums are an integral, and very rewarding, part of the course and the online learning experience.

Recommended reading

To participate in the course you will need to have regular access to the Internet and you will need to buy the following books:

  • Paul Fussell, The Great War and Modern Memory, rev edn, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • George Walter, ed., The New Penguin Book of First World War Poetry (Harmondsworth, Penguin, 2006)


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £10 fee.

For more information on CATS point please click on the link below: http://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/studentsupport/faq/cats.php

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.

All students who successfully complete this course, whether registered for credit or not, are eligible for a Certificate of Completion. Completion consists of submitting both course assignments and actively participating in the course forums. Certificates will be available, online, for those who qualify after the course finishes.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.


Home/EU Fee: £270.00
Non-EU Fee: £295.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00


Dr Alex Pryce


Alex Pryce is currently completing a DPhil in English at Wadham College. Her research focuses on tradition, influence and feminism in contemporary Northern Irish women's poetry. She lives in Oxford and regularly reviews poetry in magazines and journals.

Course aims

This course aims to:

  • Introduce participants to the range and a representative sample of forms and styles of poetry written in English during or about the First World War;
  • Place the texts studied in their cultural contexts;
  • Enable students to gain a greater appreciation and enjoyment of the texts studied.

Course objectives:

This course will enable participants to:

  • Have knowledge of some of the major themes of First World War poetry in English;
  • Gain a greater understanding of the cultural contexts of the texts studied;
  • Gain a critical appreciation of the texts studied;
  • Identify some of the characteristic features of the poets studied;
  • Improve and deploy skills of close critical analysis;
  • Discuss the representation of war in poetry from the period c1910-1914.

Teaching methods

  • Each topic will be introduced by notes or by direction to suitable websites.
  • Students will be directed to key passages of the poems, and offered suggested topics for discussion.
  • Students will be directed to further resources, including the Oxford First World War virtual tutorial, the Oxford University Press, Online Reference library, the Wilfred Owen Society, pages on Edwardian and Georgian history and literature, and on military history.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course students will be expected to understand:

  • Key events of the First World War.
  • The range of different forms of poetry written during and about the First World War.
  • Characteristic styles and techniques of three major poets of the First World War writing in English.
  • Some issues involved in the artistic representation of war.
  • Some issues involved in the criticism of war poetry.
  • Key techniques of poetic analysis.

By the end of this course students will be expected to have gained the following skills:

  • Improved skills of close critical analysis of literary texts.
  • Improved skills in the use of contextual material in the study of literary texts.

Assessment methods

Assessment for this course is based on two written assignments - one short assignment  of 500 words due half way through the course and one longer assignment of 1500 words due at the end of the course.

Assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail.


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an application form.

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.