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MLA Proseminar: Representing War in the Twentieth Century

ENGL 461.640
instructor(s):

In this course we will investigate the experience of war in the twentieth century, from a largely literary, but also 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), and possibly also the Bosnian conflict and the Iraq War. 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 films) that evolved over the course of the century to represent these catastrophes. Readings are likely to include: selected poetry from World War I; 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 are likely to include: Between the Lines, Degenerate Art, The Battle of Algiers, The Fog of War, Black and White in Color, and The Control Room.