The Making of Wars in American Literature
This course is a survey of American literature from the Civil War to the Vietnam War with a focus on the ways in which wars, as political and social catalysts, enable writers to interrogate, re-construct, and re-present their historical realities. Our readings in this class will locate and propel us chronologically, from the Civil War (Harper), to the Spanish American War (Twain), to WWI and WWII (Hemmingway and Vonnegut), and finally, to our contemporary “post-war” America (Butler)--but this progression is neither linear nor even through time, space, and events. Rather than approaching our texts as “war literature,” we will instead consider the ways in which wars, in their destructive and reconstructive totality, become symbolic vehicles for literary construction of modernity, nationhood, and identity. As characters in our texts struggle to regain familial genealogies, mourn the loss of lives and limbs, battle against wizards, and befriend aliens, so will we emerge from reading, discussing, and writing on these geographical, spatial, and temporal disjunctions with some critical apparatus to interrogate the intersection between wars and literary construction.
This class fulfills the University of Washington’s “W” requirement, which means that you may apply the course towards the additional 7-10 writing credits required by the university. Writing is a critical component of this class, and you will be expected to complete 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, in the form of two major papers. You will have an opportunity to submit rough drafts, meet with me to discuss your essay, and complete substantive revisions prior to turning in each of the two major papers.
> 4. Book List
> Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, ISBN 9780393951370
> Frances Harper, Iola Leroy, ISBN 9780143106043
> Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, ISBN 9780684801469
> Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, ISBN 9780385333849
> Robert Olen Butler, A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, ISBN 9780802137982