C.J. Brennan's A Chant of Doom: Australia's Medieval War

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This article reviews the purpose and impact of C.J. Brennan's poetry collected in 'A Chant of Doom'. The poems contained therein have very little value as poetry, and what critics have said about it is adequately damning. The poetry was disseminated and read widely, especially by Brennan's standards, in their original newspaper and magazine print contexts. All this goes to show, not that 'A Chant of Doom' is good poetry, but that Brennan was successful in mobilising the necessary resources to write Australian war verse for a broad contemporary audience, and in meeting the propaganda requirements of the major Sydney newspapers at that time. Commonly, Brennan's poems were written for recruiting and fund-raising drives. His regular provision of anniversary pieces, occasional verses for special campaigns, and responses to emergencies reveal a strong grasp of how the mainstream press worked. This poetry's rhetoric, cultural reference and strategic engagement with its audience are worth analysing for the picture they give of how Australia responded when involvement in the Great War demanded an unprecedented ideological engagement with European, rather than purely Anglo/Celtic, cultural history.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-62
JournalAustralian Literary Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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