War in Fiction and Film

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Justin M. Weir (Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures and of Comparative Literature)
Freshman Seminar 62P     4 credits (spring term)     Enrollment:  Limited to 12

War has always been one of the most important subjects of art and literature, but in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, public ideas about war and military service have been formed increasingly by film and other visual media. In this seminar we will consider the different ways war has been depicted in literature and in films. We will spend some time identifying the conventions and clichés of the genre, and we will have occasion to discuss depictions of war in news coverage, documentaries, and video games. But we will mainly be reading and viewing several masterpieces—including novels and stories by Leo Tolstoy, Isaac Babel, Ernest Hemingway, Svetlana Alexievich, Kurt Vonnegut, Tim O’Brien, Wallace Terry, and Phil Klay, and films by directors Jean Renoir, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, Stephen Spielberg, Terrence Malick, Kathryn Bigelow, and Spike Lee. In our discussions, we will reflect on how these largely fictional narratives of war have shaped our understanding of culture, politics, and history.

Prerequisites: None. The seminar is designed for a general audience. Literary and/or media studies backgrounds are not required, nor is the material presented in a way that requires any special knowledge of military history. All texts originally written or filmed in languages other than English will be provided in translation or with subtitles.

See also: Spring 2021