ENGL 200 B: Reading Literary Forms

American War Literature Since Vietnam

Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 10:30am - 11:20am
Location: 
CDH 125
SLN: 
14040

Syllabus Description:

A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. If at the end of a war story you feel uplifted, or if you feel that some small bit of rectitude has been salvaged from the larger waste, then you have been made the victim of a very old and very terrible lie. There is no rectitude whatsoever. There is no virtue. As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil. 

- Tim O’Brien, “How to Tell a True War Story”

Course Description:

This course surveys American war literature from the Vietnam War (1965 – 1975) to the War on Terror (2001 – present). Texts and the wars they represent will be contextualized within their historical and cultural moments and will be read for the ways in which they explore the complexities of war and violence in relation to social and political issues. Questions that motivate this inquiry include (but are certainly not limited to): What is the relationship between war and representations of war in literature and popular culture? How might war literature contribute to understandings of the complex relationship between military conflict abroad and social and political issues at home? What are the generic and literary features of war narratives? How do these features change in relation to specific military conflicts? How do different modes of representation (novel, film, photography, memoir, etc.) affect the way wars are represented? Can the violence and trauma of war be effectively represented, and, with that in mind, can a war narrative ever be “true?” How do war narratives shape and respond to collective understandings of war and violence? The following questions motivate this inquiry and will guide our reading and discussion of these texts:

  • What is the relationship between war and representations of war in literature and popular culture?
  • What are the generic and literary features of war narratives? How do these features change in relation to specific military conflicts?
  • How do different modes of representation (novel, film, photography, memoir, etc.) affect the way wars are represented?
  • How might war literature contribute to understandings of the complex relationship between military conflict abroad and social and political issues at home?
  • Can the violence and trauma of war be effectively represented, and, with that in mind, can a war narrative ever be “true?”
  • How do war narratives shape and respond to collective understandings of war and violence?

Goals/Learning Outcomes

In addition to introducing students to contemporary American war literature, this course will also help students:

  • Develop critical close reading skills of literary texts, films, and photography
  • Situate texts in their historical, political, and social contexts
  • Develop more sophisticated discussion and presentation skills
  • Expand as critical thinkers and writers who can formulate substantive arguments supported with evidence
  • Foster a deeper appreciation of literature

Additional Details:

This course surveys American war literature from the Vietnam War (1965 – 1975) to the War on Terror (2001 – present) from a critical cultural studies perspective. Texts and the wars they represent will be contextualized within their historical and cultural moments and will be read for the ways in which they explore the complexities of war and violence in relation to social and political issues. Questions that motivate this inquiry include (but are certainly not limited to): What is the relationship between war and representations of war in literature and popular culture? How might war literature contribute to understandings of the complex relationship between military conflict abroad and social and political issues at home? What are the generic and literary features of war narratives? How do these features change in relation to specific military conflicts? How do different modes of representation (novel, film, photography, memoir, etc.) affect the way wars are represented? Can the violence and trauma of war be effectively represented, and, with that in mind, can a war narrative ever be “true?” How do war narratives shape and respond to collective understandings of war and violence?

Texts include: Dispatches (Michael Herr), The Things They Carried (Tim O’Brien), Generation Kill (Evan Wright), The Watch (Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya), and Redeployment (Phil Klay); excerpts from Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War (Mark Bowden), My War: Killing Time in Iraq (Colby Buzzell), Love My Rifle More than You (Kayla Williams), and others will also be read. Film texts include Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick) and Black Hawk Down (Ridley Scott).

In addition to introducing students to contemporary American war literature, this course will also help students: develop critical close reading skills of literary texts, films, and photography; situate texts in their historical, political, and social contexts; develop more sophisticated discussion skills; and expand as critical thinkers and writers who can formulate substantive arguments supported with evidence.

This course meets the University’s W-credit requirement. Formal writing assignments include a take-home midterm exam and 7-10 page final paper; informal writing assignments include weekly reading responses, and some in-class writing.

Textbooks:
*Course Packet w/secondary and excerpted primary readings AND:
Dispatches, Michael Herr, ISBN: 978-0679735250
The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien, ISBN: 978-0140147735
Generation Kill, Evan Wright, ISBN: 978-0425224748
The Watch, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, ISBN: 978-0307955913
Redeployment, Phil Klay, ISBN: 978-1594204999

Catalog Description: 
Covers techniques and practice in reading and enjoying literature in its various forms: poetry, drama, prose fiction, and film. Examines such features of literary meanings as imagery, characterization, narration, and patterning in sound and sense. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Other Requirements Met: 
Status: 
Active
Last updated: 
March 15, 2016 - 3:30pm