War Stories: Looking at War Through the Tales We Tell

Semester: 

Spring

Offered: 

2021

Drew Gilpin Faust (Department of History)
Freshman Seminar 63M 4 credits (spring term) Enrollment:  Limited to 12

This seminar will explore American wars from the Civil War to the present through the lens of fiction and film. As Ernest Hemingway once explained to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “War is the best subject of all.  It groups the maximum of material and speeds up the action and brings out all sorts of stuff that normally you have to wait a lifetime to get.” War has been lodged at the heart of the humanities since the time of Homer. War and narrative in some sense create one another. War is not random, shapeless violence. Fighting is reconceived as war because of how humans write and speak about it. It is humans that give it meaning. This seminar will explore how war has shaped stories and stories have shaped war in ways that have both changed and persisted from the nineteenth century to the present. A wide range of novels, drama, short stories and film will enable us to compare genres as well as eras as we examine how writers and the soldiers and civilians they create have grappled with the moments of truth that wars provide.

See also: Spring 2021