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LibrlSt 722: Special Topics in Twentieth-Century Studies: (Subtitle)
Sample Syllabus

Remembering Two World Wars: Sites and Modes of Memory

Professor Ruth Schwertfeger
Department of Foreign Languages and Linguistics
Curtin Hall 894
Phone: 229-4547 or 229-4701
Office Hours by Appointment

Course Description

The screening in France of the film "Nuit et Brouillard" (Night and Fog) in the fifties marked a watershed in the way France was to view her role under German occupation during the years 1940-1944. The notion of a "good " and a "bad" France, neatly divided into collaborators and resisters, which had served the country well during the de Gaulle era was increasingly challenged from within, resulting in a focus that shifted with relentless scrutiny on the role of memory. Historians and artists in a each decade since the fifties have re-visited the sites of memory, often in response to specific events that triggered national interest--for example, the screening of the film "Le Chagrin et la Pitié" (The Sorrow and the Pity) in the seventies, the Klaus Barbie trial in the eighties, the publication of Henry Rousso's book The Vichy Syndrome and the prosecution of Maurice Papon in the nineties. During this course we will examine how France and other nations--primarily those most involved in the two world wars--have dealt with their respective legacies of memory. Shifts of memory clearly imply sensitive issues of national identity and suggest that memory is rarely a search for disinterested knowledge. To what extent has memory been used or abused as an instrument for understanding the past? How much does public commemoration shape our national past? What role has the film industry played? Our inquiry in this seminar will be animated less by dates and timelines--though these will anchor our presentation--than by the investigation of modes of representation and the ensuing dramatic shifts in historiography during the last thirty years. Course readings will cover several genres, beginning with a familiar novel of the Great War--All Quiet on the Western Front--and include memoirs, poetry and cinematic representations. We will focus not only on the moral and political implications of remembering a war, but also weigh the emotional impact on a nation. As horrific as the Great War was, as significant its impact on the terms of modern warfare, the construction of memory that evolved in its wake is not overshadowed by a catastrophe like the Holocaust. In the fourth week of the course we will begin to examine how the Holocaust is remembered and commemorated, and how its specificity has been overshadowed by the rhetoric of memory. This is nowhere more directly apparent than in the history of Germany, where the former German Democratic Republic's memory of the Nazi past was deeply at odds with that of West Germany. Yet it is a history that keeps spilling over national boundaries, that produces compromising photos of a Republican president at the Nazi cemeteries at Bittburg, of the Socialist Mitterand laying flowers on Pétain's grave. And it keeps on spilling into supposedly neutral countries like Switzerland, only to re-emerge in a new debate involving the Germans as "willing executioners"--just at a time when they were beginning to become comfortably rehabilitated in a united country within Europe. In the last week of the class we will look at Hollywood's role in shaping memory of both the war and the Holocaust, with specific reference to Spielberg ("Schindler's List") and the Normandy landings ("Saving Private Ryan").

Required Books

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (New York: Ballantine Books, 1982)
Arthur Koestler, Scum of the Earth, (London: Eland Press, 1988)
Lawrence Langer, Holocaust Testimonies: The Ruins of Memory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991)
Art Spiegelman, Maus: A Survivor's Tale (New York: Pantheon Books, 1986)
Anna Seghers, The Excursion of the Dead Girls (Translated by Ann Willis. Special permission.) Available in course packet from Clark Graphics. 2915 N. Oakland Avenue, Milwaukee: phone 962-4633.

Course Requirements

Participants are expected to write two term papers (between eight and ten pages in length) on a subject that is consonant with the general theme of the class. During class discussion participants are expected to show that they are familiar with the required texts as well as assigned readings. They will demonstrate this by presenting and responding to a perspective on each reading that is designed to generate discussion during the class session. Each week several perspectives will be presented, so that all participate. Because of the primary focus of the material on the major "players " in the two world wars, participants might want to write their term paper/s on how other nations have remembered the two world wars or other hostilities that have marred the twentieth century.

  Course Grading
1. Class participation    
2. Weekly discussion
3. Two Papers

Course Schedule: Topics and Assignments


Participants will be informed how the required texts are coordinated with the weekly assigned readings.

Week 2      British Memory: A War of One's Own

Background Readings: Paul Fussell The Great War and Modern Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1975)
Wyndam Lewis, "The French Poodle," from "The Great War: Women, Men and the Great War: An Anthology of Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995) W. Somerset Maughan, "Gustav" from the same collection.

Week 3      The Poet and Writer as Combatant:

Background Readings: Fussell (contd.)
Selections from the following writers: Barbusse, Duhamel, the German dramatist Ernst Toller, Trakl, Robert Graves, Sassoon, Owen (in course packet).

Week 4      Remembering Home: Literary and Military Exchanges; Postcards and Letters from the Front

Readings from the exchange of poems, letters and postcards between the German poet Else Lasker-Schüler and the artist Franz Marc.
The correspondence of Remarque with General Sir Ian Hamilton (all readings in course packet).

Week 5      Sites of Memory

Background Readings: George Mosse, Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978)
The First World War Cemeteries on the WWW
William Faulkner, "All the Dead Pilots," from "The Great War: Women, Men and the Great War: An Anthology of Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995)

Week 6      Women and the First World War

Background Readings: The Great War: Women, Men and the Great War: An Anthology of Stories (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1995. Winifred Holtby "So Handy for the Fair." (52-67).
Gwendolyn Bennett "Wedding Day" 141-147

Week 7      Women and the First World War (Cont'd.)

Gertrud Stein, "Tourty or Tourtebattre " 73-76 in Women, Men and the Great War, Edith Wharton, "The Refugees," 174-183

Week 8      Collective Memory or "a collection of memories"?

Background Readings: George Mosse, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989)
Copies of archival testimonies from my own files (course packet)
Jean Amery, "Torture," from At the Mind's Limit (New York: Schocken, 1988)

Week 9      The Politics of Memory

Readings from: Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome
Charles Maier, The Unmasterable Past: History, Holocaust, and the German National Identity, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988).
Screening of segments from "The Nasty Girl"

Week 10      Memory and Politicians

Reading of Address by Chancellor Kohl to German and American Soldiers and their Families at Bitburg, May 5, 1985
Reading of Remarks of President Reagan to Regional Editors, White House, April 18, 1985
Reading of Remarks of President Reagan at Bergen-Belsen, May 5, 1985
All in course packet.

Week 11      Public Commemoration and Controversy

Readings from James Young, Holocaust Memorials and Meaning: The Texture of Memory, ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993)

Week 12      Remembering the Camps

Readings from: Eli Wiesel's Night.
Primo Levi's The Drowned and the Saved
(New York: Summit Books, 1988)
Excerpts from Ruth Schwertfeger, Women of Theresienstadt (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 1989)
In course packet

Week 13      Destroying Memory; Preserving Ruins: The Case of Oradour

Readings from Pierre Vidal-Naquet, Assassins of Memory: Essays on the Denial of the Holocaust, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992) and from Sara Farmer's, Martyred Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999)

Week 14      The Role of Hollywood in Shaping Memory

"Schindler's List"
The Normandy landings: " Saving Private Ryan"
Participants will be asked to view the films at home.

Week 15     Final Discussion

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