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War, Peace and Culture

ENGL 295.401

In a world engulfed by violent conflict, what do writers, filmmakers, and other artists have to say about peace?  This course surveys a wide variety of contemporary works, ranging from fictional and nonfictional writings (George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia, J.M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians, and Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls), to films (Alain Resnais' Hiroshima mon amour, Stanley Kubrick's Paths of Glory, Terrence Malick's The Thin Red Line, Errol Morris's The Fog of War, and Claude Lanzmann's Shoah), to works by less familiar Western and non-Western artists (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, Leslie Marmon Silko's The Ceremony, and Granta 112: Pakistan).  We will also explore historical and contemporary political and theoretical viewpoints, beginning with Immanuel Kant's seminal 1795 essay on Perpetual Peace and extending to such well-known 20th- and 21st-century theorists as Saskia Sassen, Achille Mbembe, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, as well as political speeches (President Obama's speech on Afghanistan, Dec. 1, 2009; Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," 1963 and Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, 1964; Ghandi's "Speech On The Eve of The Last Fast," 1948; and Nelson Mandela's "Speech on the 20th Anniversary of Steve Biko's Death," 1997).  In this seminar, students will be asked to consider and develop their own perspectives, so that fresh understandings of peace and conflict are able to emerge.  This course will be of interest to students in English, Comparative Literature, Art History, and Cinema Studies, as well as History, Law, and Political Science.  In addition, a unique exhibition and series of conversations will take place on campus during the semester at Slought Foundation ( in close conjunction with this course offering. 

fulfills requirements
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major