Date of Award

Summer 8-2016

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Craig Carey

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Emily Stanback

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Jonathan Barron

Committee Member 3 Department



Wilfred Owen is widely recognized to be the greatest English “trench poet” of the First World War. His posthumously published war poems sculpt a nightmarish vision of trench warfare, one which enables Western audiences to consider the suffering of the English soldiers and the brutality of modern warfare nearly a century after the armistice. However, critical readings of Owen’s canonized corpus, including “The Show” (1917, 1918), only focus on their hellish imagery. I will add to these readings by demonstrating that “The Show” is primarily concerned with the limitations of lyric poetry, the monumentality of poetic composition, and the difficulties of representing one’s traumatized memory. I will bolster this reading with a comparative study of the poem’s manuscripts that interprets the rough and fair copies of Owen’s late poem as monuments which he sculpted, fashioned, and redesigned to commemorate his past and investigate the visual possibilities of lyric poetry. This reading is significant because, in the same way that the grotesqueries of war and trauma are concealed for the sake of public commemoration, so too are the ugliness and near-incomprehensibility of Owen’s manuscripts concealed by the anthologized poem. I propose that the anthologized poem helps us to better understand the manuscripts and vice versa, and they are both crucial to our continued understanding of English poetry and soldierly psychology in the First World War.