The Spring 2019 Washington University Prison Education Project Reading Group will explore literature of the First World War in order to recognize and remember the recent one-hundred year anniversary of the end of that conflict. 

February 1, 2019: Regeneration, by Pat Barker

Regeneration by Pat Barker is a classic exploration of how the traumas of war brutalised a generation of young.

‘I just don’t think our war aims – whatever they may be – and we don’t know – justify this level of slaughter.’

The poets and soldiers Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen are dispatched to Craiglockhart War Hospital in Scotland in 1917. There, army psychiatrist William Rivers is treating brutalised, shell-shocked men. It is Rivers’ job to fix these men and make them ready to fight again. As a witness to the traumas they have endured, can he in all conscience send them back to the horrors of the trenches?

February 1, 2019, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.   |    MECC Campus

March 1, 2019: All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque

Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

March 1, 2019, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.   |    MECC Campus

Description: Penguin Books.

April 12, 2019: The Return of the Soldier, by Rebecca West

Set during World War I on an isolated country estate just outside London, Rebecca West’s haunting novel The Return of the Soldier follows Chris Baldry, a shell-shocked captain suffering from amnesia, as he makes a bittersweet homecoming to the three women who have helped shape his life. Will the devoted wife he can no longer recollect, the favorite cousin he remembers only as a childhood friend, and the poor innkeeper’s daughter he once courted leave Chris to languish in a safe, dreamy past—or will they help him recover his memory so that he can return to the front? The answer is revealed through a heartwrenching, unexpected sacrifice.

Description: Penguin Books

April 12, 2019, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.   |    MECC Campus

April 26, 2019: Assorted Poetry and Short Stories

This session will focus on a selection of poetry and short stories from authors responding to the traumas of World War I.  

April 26, 2019, 1:00 – 3:00 p.m.   |    MECC Campus

The Spring 2019 Reading Group is convened by Dr. Barbara Baumgartner with Halley Parry.