Studies from 20th Century to Present: Fiction and War

Our focus will be on how writers of the twentieth century have grappled with writing about war, including wars that are ongoing. From World War I to the Iraq War, how has each writer sought to depict the complex, delicate nuances of human drama, as well as the “big” themes? How have the approaches changed according to the times, the military “sophistication” of the conflict, and its (in)visibility in the international media? To what extent does literature sensitize us to the horrors of war – including ways in which society veils them, through manufacturing concepts of “good” and “evil”, “us” and “them,” “liberator” and “terrorist” – and to what extent does it merely affirm what we know, or think we know? Is the “accuracy” of a dramatized conflict “truer” than a news report, and if so, how?

Class requirements include: participation in class discussions, quizzes on assigned texts; reports/response papers on readings and discussions; individual and/or group presentations on each book; formal essays; a mid-term, a final exam. 

Texts: Dalton Trumbo JOHNNY GOT HIS GUN; Michael Ondaatje THE ENGLISH PATIENT; Atiq Rahimi EARTH AND ASHES; Adania Shibli TOUCH; Betool Khedairi ABSENT; Yasmina Khadra THE SIRENS OF BAGHDAD. Books will be available at Revolution Books.