Alan Seeger Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Known primarily for his poetry, Alan Seeger also wrote occasional journalism. A wartime diary, which includes a series of insightful letters to his mother and his friends, was published as Letters and Diary of Alan Seeger, 1917.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

During his life, Alan Seeger won no major awards for his poetry. However, his death in the early stages of World War I brought his poetry to an enormous audience. His death seemed to demonstrate his commitment to the values he espoused in his poems, such as honor, sacrifice, and valor. The poems and the example of his short life earned him recognition in the early 1920’s from the French government, which erected a monument honoring him and other American volunteers who served in the French Foreign Legion prior to the United States’ entering World War I. Several sections of Seeger’s memorial poem, “Ode in Memory of the American Volunteers Fallen for France,” which was completed two months before Seeger’s death in combat, are engraved on the memorial.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Archer, William. Introduction to Poems by Alan Seeger, edited by William Archer. 1917. Reprint. Charleston, S.C.: BiblioBazaar, 2008. The introduction to Seeger’s posthumously published collection provides literary criticism and a biography. Archer calls the poet a “very rare spirit” and praises his decision to fight in the war, seeing it as a determination to live life to the fullest. This early introduction enhances readers’ understanding of its early reception.

Cross, Tim. The Lost Voices of World War I: An International Anthology of Writers, Poets and Playwrights. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1989. Places Seeger’s work in context, showcasing his poem “I Have a Rendezvous with Death” as one of the finest examples of early war poetry.

Poë, Simon. “Among the First to Fall.” New Statesman 134, no. 4746 (2005): 40-42. Summarizes the often-repeated critical maxim that the early war poets, like Seeger, were flawed by an idealized, romantic view of the conflict, and therefore, their poetry is flawed.

Saunders, Max. “Friendship and Enmity in First World War Literature.” Literature and History 17, no. 1 (2008): 62-77. A brief essay that uses psychological criticism to uncover a series of themes in World War I literature. One such theme, with particular importance in light of Seeger’s love of France, is how the war complicated the issue of national identity.

Seeger, Alan. Alan Seeger: The Complete Works. Edited by Amanda Harlech. Paris: Edition 7L, 2001. Draws together Seeger’s poems, his diary, and letters, and contains photographs of the locations described in the works.

Winn, James Anderson. The Poetry of War. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. In this wide-ranging discussion of war and poetry, Winn provides some analysis of Seeger’s poetry, using his diary and the poetry itself. He looks in particular at the concept of shame as evidenced in Seeger’s poetry.

Zagajewski, Adam. “The Shabby and the Sublime.” The New Republic 220 (April 5, 1999): 32-37. Argues that the horrors of World War I forced a radical redefinition in poetic diction used to represent extreme experiences; the prewar taste for elevated diction and heroic sentiments (of the kind Seeger expresses) would come to be seen as propaganda later in the war and well into the 1930’s.