358:437 American Literature and Perpetual War

B6  5/31-7/8  MW 6:00-10:00 PM  CAC  03346  PARRISH  MU-212

American Literature and Perpetual War

This seminar questions the cultural implications of literature for a time of American perpetual war after 1945, moving into the twenty-first century’s relationship to what journalists have called “the forever wars” — namely, Iraq and Afghanistan. What is the nature of American literature’s relationship with war? How (and why) did that change after 1945, and how has it continued to change in the years since? What new forms of representation might we find wartime’s status as something that is “perpetual,” or “forever”, without a fixed duration or occasion for reflection? To engage these questions, we’ll read a selection of novels, nonfiction narratives, and poetry from World War II to the present, alongside theoretical approaches to trauma, collective memory, cosmopolitanism, and terror. Major works covered will include Joseph Heller’s Catch-22, Bobbie Ann Mason’s In Country, and a wide range of lesser-known literatures, to include veteran writing that attempts to capture a sense of wartime during and after Vietnam. The course will also broadly discuss histories, theoretical approaches, and critiques of American war-making in order to help students develop their own critical positions on a still-developing age of contemporary war literature. Graded requirements will include quizzes and close reading assignments culminating in the development of a research project for a final paper.