This class examines experiences and effects of war through close reading, historical context, and theories of memory and trauma. We will study poems, novels, short stories, graphic novels, and films from the 20th and 21st century; and we will put perspectives from history, philosophy, and the cognitive sciences into conversation with these literary narratives.
As we encounter these texts, we will consider these questions:
· How does the changing nature of war, including its technology, location, and civilian death toll affect the way war narratives are defined and told? Does the form of war influence the form of literature?
· How do literature and rhetoric affect the way that wars are conducted and remembered? What do some narrative genres allow us to see that others cannot?
· What standards do we use to differentiate fiction and non-fiction in war narratives? How do we differentiate literature and propaganda?
· What counts as a narrative of war? How do the perspectives of civilians (both near and far from war zones), family members, and the post-war generation relate to soldier’s narratives?
· What are the ethical stakes of reading about war? What can civilians understand about war (and their place in relation to it) by reading these texts, and what are the limits of this understanding?
Literary authors to be studied include Virginia Woolf, Kazuo Ishiguro, Art Spiegelman, Ernest Hemingway Tim O'Brien to Phil Klay, and a range of poets. Theoretical perspectives will primarily come from cultural theorist Susan Sontag, historian Dominick LaCapra, and psychologist Daniel Schacter. Films viewed in class include Stanley Kubrik’s “Full Metal Jacket” and Armando Iannucci’s “In the Loop.” Students are also invited (but not required) to analyze war narratives beyond those on our syllabus in their final project.