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Myths of the Western Front

Galer, Graham Stanley (2002) Myths of the Western Front. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94360) (KAR id:94360)


This thesis is an exploratory essay into ways in which a number of myths have emerged from the experience of those who fought on the Western Front in 1914-1918. The approach adopted comprises a presentation of some of the myths, and an analysis of the ways in which they have been represented in literature.

Three principal myths are identified, and are termed “Loss, Anger and Futility” (LAF), “Renewal through Sacrifice” (RTS) and “Reconciliation and Regeneration” (RR). The first two myths are particular examples of general myths of war, which gave rise to ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ experiences of WW1. RR is a myth of reconciliation which evolved from LAF and RTS, and which, it is suggested, underpins the movement for European unity which gained strength in the post-WW2 years.

The tools used to analyse the expression of the myths through literature are ‘mythic consciousness’, and myth as derived from ‘remembered communitas\ or from the ‘retrospective transfiguration of a sacrificial crisis’. The theoretical work from which these concepts arise is due respectively to Ernst Cassirer, Victor Turner and René Girard.

These tools are employed to analyse three groups of writings inspired by the experience of the Western Front. These groups are referred to in the thesis as the ‘First Wave’ (during and soon after the war), the ‘Second Wave’ (around 1930) and the ‘Third Wave’ (post-1990). Within the First and Second Waves, particular attention is given to the writings of Siegfried Sassoon and Ernst Jünger.

The perspective adopted in this thesis suggests that, from a mythological point of view, the Western Front may be seen as the ‘founding murder’ of the present-day European Union.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94360
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: myth; war literature; First World War
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I (1914-1918)
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 12 May 2023 15:13 UTC
Last Modified: 15 May 2023 11:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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