RT Book, Whole DB /z-wcorg/ DS http://worldcat.org ID 29477712 LA English T1 Rupert Brooke A1 Laskowski, William E., PB Twayne ; Maxwell Macmillan Canada ; Maxwell Macmillan International PP New York; Toronto; New York YR 1994 SN 0805770259 9780805770254 AB Patriot or troubled young man with suicidal impulses. Talented poet struggling to find his own voice or unoriginal throwback to a bygone era. Personification of honorable self-sacrifice or of deluded self-indulgence. Rupert Brooke, the lyric poet who eschewed the tenets of modernism coming into vogue at the time of his death in 1915, can nonetheless be viewed as the quintessentially modern man: conflicted, unsure of his identity, psychologically complex. William E. Laskowski accommodates Brooke's many inherent contradictions, as well as the polarized critical views of his brief literary career, in this fair-minded appraisal of Brooke's life and work. Brooke's poetic appeal has always depended on his legend. Directly following his untimely death from blood poisoning while serving during World War I, his life and his poetry were viewed as the embodiment of heroic youth. Brooke's poetry, particularly the war sonnets written in the year before he died, glorified physical adventurousness and extolled the ideal of self-sacrifice for a greater good. Defenders of World War I used the example of Brooke and his poems to justify the loss of so many young men to a conflict its detractors perceived as jingoistic and morally dubious. In the years leading up to World War II, critics began to turn the legend of the charming and virtuous Brooke on its ear, creating what Laskowski calls a countermyth: Brooke's willingness to give his life to the war was interpreted as a death wish rooted in an imbalanced psyche, his love of adventure perceived as a desire to escape the responsibilities of adulthood. His poetry, though forward looking in its realism and relatively informal diction, was attacked for its embrace of glory in death and war, an idea antithetical to the self-doubting and skeptical modernists who now ruled the day. Brooke, Laskowski writes, came to represent the dark side of Peter Pan, the hero of his favorite play: a youth so afraid of the commitment and responsibility attending maturity that he was foolishly unafraid of death. One question that often is raised in commentary on Brooke is that of what he might have become - what kind of poet, what kind of man - had he survived the war. The structural weakness of his poetry and his inability to distance himself from his emotions argue against Brooke's becoming a poet of the caliber of his contemporary T.S. Eliot. Brooke's lesser-known but significant prose writings, including his letters, his dissertation, his play Lithuania, and his criticism and travel writing, particularly Letters from America, suggest a career as a literary and social critic. Yet another possibility is that Brooke the gregarious charmer and decided socialist would have become a politician. . Whatever his unfulfilled potential, the legacy he managed to leave in his brief 27 years continues to fascinate scholars and to inspire controversy. Laskowski's aim is to strip off the many layers of revisionism to get at the original, unstudied Brooke. "To understand Brooke in his cultural and artistic context," he writes, "is the ultimate purpose of this study: not to rescue him but to comprehend him."