The Vietnam War in Literature and Film
The Vietnam War was waged not only the battlefield but also on the field of memory. Long after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the traumas of war have haunted the minds and bodies of those who fought, and the nightmares of civilians whose lives were irrevocably changed. As a nation, Americans have continued to reckon with the contentious legacies of the war. It still shapes military policy, political debates, the representation of subsequent wars, and struggles over national identity.
This course explores the creative outpouring of responses to the Vietnam War in literature and film. We will ask how artists and filmmakers represented the experience of those on the battlefield and the home front; how they sought consolation for unfathomable losses; how they fought symbolic battles over the interpretation and memory of the war; and how they produced a legacy for future generations. We will contrast different perspectives on the war by Americans, Vietnamese, and Vietnamese-Americans. Books and films include The Quiet American; Dispatches, The Deer Hunter, Born on the Fourth of July; Apocalypse Now; Platoon; The Sorrow of War; Full Metal Jacket; Dien Cau Dau; The Things They Carried; When Heaven and Earth Changed Places; The Sympathizer.