chapter
Critical commentary
Pages 24

In 1919 - the same year in which Edith Sitwell published seven of Owen's poems about war in Wheels: Fourth eyde - T. S. Eliot provided the terms of reference for the taming of Owen:

One ploy has been to scale Owen's poetry down: 'modernism' was in vogue, and where did Owen fit in there? F. R. Leavis suggested that Owen had no part in the 'new start' that the EliotPound revolution in technique gave to British poetry.1 Since Leavis is using Eliot's assumption about the reordering of tradition, Owen is automatically put aside, since he didn't so much reorder poetic tradition as invert its implicit values. This scaling down of Owen's work is nowhere more clegantly summarized than by A. Alvarez in The Savagc Cod (1971): 'there is an antiheroic force at work in Owen which corresponds to all those elements in his writing which wellt to make hirn one of the British fore-runners of modernism. '3 So Owen made a dummy run rather than actually participating in the race to re order tradition? 'Modernism', with its breaking up oftime sequences, its irrational juxtaposition of discrete images, its stream-ofconsciousness techniques, and so on, must have its anticipators, and Owen is conveniently a 'fall guy' here - although Robert Browning or Laurence Sterne would do equally as well.