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War and Literature

ENGL 102.001
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Wars are never only waged between soldiers on the battlefield. Long after the last bomb explodes, the traumas of war continue in the intimate memories and scarred bodies of those who fought, and in the nightmares of civilians whose lives were destroyed or irrevocably changed. This course explores how major literary works represent war and its aftermath in the lives of soldiers and civilians, communities and nations. We will ask how literature wages symbolic battles over the interpretation and memory of war,  how it seeks consolation for unfathomable losses, and how it commemorates a legacy for future generation.  Literature, in the words of a recent book, transforms war into a “force that gives us meaning” while it challenges our capacity to make meaning.  Readings focus on the twentieth century, though we will start with The Iliad, include material from the American Civil War, and end with the current war in Iraq. In addition to novels, poems, and plays we will include memoirs, histories and films. Authors include Pat Barker, Tim O'Brien, Bao Ninh, Walt Whitman, Ariel Dorfman, Primo Levi, Joseph Heller, S. Yizhar, Joe Sacco, Ariel Dorfman, Jonathan Shay.