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War and Literature

ENGL 361.301
instructor(s):
fulfills requirements:
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major

In this course we will investigate the experience of war in the twentieth century, mainly from a literary, but also from a cinematic, art historical, and historical point of view. We will read texts that deal with World War I, World War II, the Holocaust, the bombing of German cities and Hiroshima, the conflict in Vietnam and other anti-colonial wars (such as the Algerian struggle for independence), possibly also the Bosnian conflict and the war in Iraq. Though our reading list will include some books that deal with the experience of combat, this is not the sole focus of the course. We will also consider questions of resistance, complicity, conscience, and memory; civilians’ struggle to survive in, or elude the violence of war; and the traumatic aftermath of conflict. Most importantly, we will consider the experimental and innovative narrative forms (including graphic novels and cinematic forms) that evolved over the course of the century to represent these catastrophes. Readings will include: World War I poetry; Pat Barker, The Ghost Road; Hemingway, In Our Time; Rachel Seiffert, The Dark Room; Art Spiegelman, Maus; Ian McEwan, Atonement, W. B. Sebald, Austerlitz; Graham Greene, The Quiet American; and Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried. Films will include: Between the Lines, Degenerate Art, The Battle of Algiers, The Fog of War, and The Control Room.