English 461 The Senior Seminar March 2 Update note: NEW Secondary Reading for April 6!
The Culture of War
Spring Term 2011
Professor Kenneth  McNeil 
Office phone: 5-4578 
e-mail: mcneilk@easternct.edu
Office: Webb Hall  234
http://nutmeg.easternct.edu/~mcneilk/

Office Hours: 
Tuesday, Thursday 12:15-1:45
Wednesday 11:00-12:00; 6:00-7:00 pm

And by appointment

 

Required Materials
Homer, The Iliad (Penguin Classics)
Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (Scribners)
Margurite Duras, The War (New Press)
Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (Ballentine)
Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (Penguin)
Copy handout packet

Required film viewing: Saving Private Ryan, Platoon

Course Description
A literary exploration of warfare as depicted in range of writing and imagery. War has been with us for a long time. Humans have made war on each other and warfare has been a fundamental aspect of human culture since the beginnings of civilization. Indeed the propensity to kill, or to sanction the killing of, others whom we have never met or do not know is arguably a basic condition of being human. Wars have come and gone throughout our history and even though warfare has generally brought with it only increased death and destruction, no human society has ever given up on it entirely.

What is the culture of war? How does war shape, and is shaped by, our most basic assumptions about ourselves as individuals or in relation to others in society? How does warfare confer status and/or identity among its participants? This course will cover a broad historical range, from wars of the ancient world to modern-day conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan. Topics might include the nature of combat, the home front, anti-war sentiment, nations and national identity, war as historical necessity, the image of the dead, gender identities, and others.

Course Goals
Since this course is not simply an upper-division literary course but a seminar course, the "capstone" of your English career at Eastern, I will be asking you to develop your ideas about the literature we read through informed and thoughtful discussions during class, and in formal written papers, presentations, and proposals. The final goal of this semester's study is to allow you to begin thinking about the final product of next semester--an extensively thought out, researched, and reworked thesis--what I hope you will consider your best work, the culmination of your scholarly thinking as an English major at Eastern.

Course Requirements
Response papers (40%)
Literary Response One
Literary Response Two

Literary Response Three
Literary Response Four

Secondary Reading Responses 10% (Do Two Total)
War Memorial Project 20%
Group Presentation 15%
Quizzes 5%
Participation 10%

Literary Response Papers 40%
There are four Literary Response Papers, one due about every fourth week. Response papers are linked to specific reading assignments and are posted on the course website (see above). You are to respond to any one day's questions taken from the upcoming reading assignments. Response questions must be typed, double-spaced and turned in on the day that you have selected. For example, answers to questions from March 9th's reading must be turned in on that day. Papers are due in class on the assigned date. Late papers will be subject to a reduction in grade. If you feel you have a good reason for requiring an extension, please come talk to me about it beforehand. However, after-due date extensions, except in the case of emergencies, will be difficult to obtain.

Secondary Reading Response Papers 10%
You must also complete two secondary reading response papers. You are to respond to two (out of six) secondary readings during the semester. Summary Reading Response questions must be typed, double-spaced and turned in on the day that you have selected. For example, your response to March 2nd's reading must be turned in on that day. Papers are due in class on the assigned date. Late papers will be subject to a reduction in grade. If you feel you have a good reason for requiring an extension, please come talk to me about it beforehand. However, after-due date extensions, except in the case of emergencies, will be difficult to obtain.

Group Presentation
At some point early in the semester I will divide the class up into four groups.  Each group will then be given the task of putting together an oral presentation, due at several-week intervals throughout the semester.  Each presentation will be devoted on a specific topic.  (See the Calendar for specific topics)  Each presentation should be at least 10 minutes (and last no more than 15 minutes) and must include at least one handout to be given to the class as a whole.  Beyond the handout, the materials and format of the presentations are only limited by the group's imagination and may include use of a variety of media.

Quizzes
There will be up to three short surprise quizzes given throughout the semester.  These are intended merely to give friendly encouragement to keep up with the assigned reading in class.

Participation
Regular attendance of classes is absolutely expected for this course. Two or more unexcused absences will lower your participation grade significantly.

Avoid plagiarism (stealing the exact words or ideas of another) like the plague. In this class acts of plagiarism incur a zero and could also result in course failure.

Disclaimer:  I reserve the right to change the syllabus and assigned readings (with plenty of advanced warning)

Calendar

Week 1
January 26: class cancelled; Eastern closed

War in the Western World

 Week 2
February
2: Introduction; Thucydides, "The Melian Dialogue"; Walt Whitman, "First Songs for a Prelude," Eighteen Sixty-One"

Combat

Week 3
February 9: Homer, The Iliad, Books 1-4; Tim O'Brien, "How to Tell a True War Story"
"The Things They Carried"

Secondary reading: Paul Fussell, "The Real War Will Never Get in the Books"

Week 4
February 16: Homer, The Iliad, Books 5-11; L.T. Meade "For Valour"; Wilfred Owen, "Dulce et Decorum Est"

Week 5
February 23: Homer, The Iliad, Books 11-17; Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (read to page 137, Chapter 7)

Student Reading Response, Lauren Biatowas "Broken Spirits: The Effects of War on the Soldiers Attitudes in All Quiet on the Western Front"

The Image of the Dead

Week 6
March 2: Oral Presentation: Censoring the Image of the Dead During Recent American Wars

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (read to end); Ernest Hemingway, "A Natural History of the Dead"

Secondary reading: George H. Roeder, "War as a Way of Seeing"

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Aftereffects

Week 7
March 9: Oral Presentation: "Coming Home" in Recent American Experience

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (read to pg. 147, Chapter XIV)

Secondary reading: William Adair, "'The Sun Also Rises': A Memory of War"

Student Secondary Response, Kathleen Mita, "'The Sun Also Rises': A Memory of War"

Week 8
March 16: Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises (read to end); Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony (read to pg. 114)

Student Reading Response, Amie Tetreault, "The Fate of Jake and Brett in The Sun Also Rises"

Week 9
March 21-25 Spring break!

Homefront

Week 10

March 30: Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony(read to end; Walt Whitman, "Come Up from the Fields Father"; Siegfried Sassoon, "The Hero," "The Glory of Women"

 

Week 11
April 6: Homer, The Iliad, Books 17-end; Margurite Duras, The War
(read to end)

Secondary reading: Arthur C. Danto, "The Vietnam Veterans Memorial" NEW Secondary Reading

Week 12
April 13: Margurite Duras, The War

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War and Gender

Week 13

April 20: Mary Chesnutt, A Diary from Dixie (excerpts); James Cromb, The Highland Brigade (excerpts); Florence Nightengale, I Have Done My Duty (excerpts); Walt Whitman, "The Wound Dresser"; Wilfred Owen, "Apologia Pro Poemate Meo"

Secondary reading: Margaret Higonnet, "Not So Quiet in No-Woman's Land"

Week 14
April 27: Oral Presentation: Teaching War Literature on the Secondary Level and Below: Problems and Potentials

Conference week, meet with me in Webb Hall 234


Aristophanes, Lysistrata

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War and the Nation

Week 15
May 4: Research discussion

Rupert Brooke, "The Soldier," Saving Private Ryan, Platoon

Secondary reading: "Saving Private Ryan and American Triumphalism"

Week 16
May 11: Oral Presentation: Equality Paid for in Blood? (Tuskegee Airmen, Navaho Code Talkers, Nisei marines)

Patricio Paiz, "En Memoria de Arturo Tijerina"; Wallace Terry, Bloods

Final Exam Week
Wednesday, May 18th, 7-9:45

War Memorial Project Due
Oral Report: War Memorial Project

Some Useful Links
A Bibliography on War and Culture

CTMonuments.net

Research Proposal (due second week of fall semester)

Illustration: Francisco Goya, The Disasters of War "With or Without Reason"


If you are a student with a disability and believe you will need accommodations for this class, it is your responsibility to contact the Office of Disability Services at (860) 465-5573.  To avoid any delay in the receipt of accommodations, you should contact the Office of Disability Services as soon as possible.  Please understand that I cannot provide accommodations based upon disability until I have received an accommodation letter from the Office of Disability Services.  Your cooperation is appreciated.

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