English R1B

Reading and Composition: Western War Literature

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
9 Fall 2020 Furcall, Dylan
MWF 1-2

Book List

Aristophanes : Lysistrata; Chesnutt , Charles: The Colonel's Dream; Orwell, George : Homage to Catalonia; Rankine, Claudia: Don't Let Me Be Lonely: An American Lyric

Other Readings and Media

"The Wall," Jean-Paul Sartre; The Battle of Algiers, Gillo Pontecorvo; Red Cavalry, Isaac Babel (selections); The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Gertrude Stein (selections); "Donelson," Herman Melville; The Disasters of War, Francisco Goya; "Looking at War," "Regarding the Pain of Others," Susan Sontag; "War Making and State Making as Organized Crime," Charles Tilly; Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes (selections); "Manifesto of Futurism," F.T. Marinetti; Three Guineas, Virginia Woolf (selections); selected Vietnam War journalism


Western literature has, since its inception, been preoccupied with war: war as historical and as personal event, as political and ethical crisis, as quotidian reality. Insofar as war has been a master-narrative in our conception of human society, it’s also been a master-genre of writing—and yet the means and manner by which writers have depicted and reflected upon war have varied as much from author to author as they have from epoch to epoch. “War writing” has manifested as a set of sub-genres—war reporting, war novels, war poetry, etc.—each with its own unique traditions and sets of concerns. Some authors have employed writing to document the “facts” of war; others have been concerned with how war throws into relief the relationship of the individual to the nationstate; some, such as F.T. Marinetti, have sought to simulate the violence of war in their compositional techniques; and still others reflect less on the realities of battle than on the cultural memory of war. This course will survey some of the ways that Western literature has engaged with war, in the effort of expanding and revising our notions of what war writing is, where its responsibilities lie, and what social and aesthetic aims it can achieve. 

As a composition class, the point of this course is not to “master” content. Rather, it is to hone our analytic, argumentative, and research skills, and to practice those skills in academic writing. To that end, in addition to covering poetry, fiction, criticism, memoir, and film, we will spend a significant portion of class time practicing and reviewing rhetorical strategies, logical argumentation, and research methods. 

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