IPHS 391.02: The Literature of War as History
This interdisciplinary seminar will study the literature of warfare with two interconnected goals: to begin to understand the forms and variations of war literature and to assess these different forms as sources for military history. Readings will vary widely across time and literary genre, although they will be confined largely to European and American literature, with some brief attention to Japan. We will begin with epic poetry (Western literature and the historiography of European warfare both begin with the Iliad) and move on to consider narrative history, memoir, drama, the novel, battlefield reportage, the novelized or fictionalized memoir, diaries and letters, and 19th and 20th century poetry.
Students should be prepared for the interdisciplinary element of this least humane of studies: military historians must cope with the subjective impressions of soldier-authors and literary scholars must know something of hardware, tactics, and military culture in order to read these books well.
As we move through the course, certain thematic questions will be asked again and again of very different texts. Does the chaos of battle defeat ordinary historiography? Can literature's claim to offer a fiction 'more true' than fact be justified? Is battle, then, unique among human experiences in that effective descriptions must be literary?
Details: This course is open to sophmores, juniors, and seniors, with a prerequisite of either IPHS 113-114 or a minimum of two units in Classical Civilization or Literature, European Literature, or European History. It may also count toward the History major, but potential history majors should seek confirmation of this fact.
Meeting Time: (FALL 2008) W 1310-1600.