Slavic R5A, Section 1: Writing (Against) War: Representing and Resisting Conflict in Literature and Film

MWF 8-9, 228 Dwinelle. Instructor: Antje Postema.

Units: 4

This course satisfies the first half or the “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

This course focuses on literary texts and films that significantly engage with historical conflicts in the modern period, with a specific focus on the Slavic speaking world. We will examine literary and filmic representations of historical warfare, keeping in mind the temporal and geographical context of each work. The majority of our attention will be on the variety of generic and rhetorical positions authors take as they represent war. We will analyze the seeming paradox at the root of artistic representation of conflict: that the upheaval of war seems both to demand representation and to inhibit it.

Out of this paradox emerge many of the course’s major questions: What characteristic genres or tropes recur in these texts, though they may be written decades apart and in different regions of the globe? Do war stories differ when they are told from the perspective of civilians or soldiers, women or men, victims or perpetrators? How do particular media shape stories? What role do “truth” or “accuracy” play in navigating between lived experience and artistic representation? Is the changing face of war across the long 20th century matched by changes in its treatment in literature and film? Are there, after all, unified genres or modes that might legitimately be termed “war literature” or “war film”?

This class will provide opportunities to develop three interrelated skills: critical reading, meaningful discussion, and clear academic writing. By the end of the semester, students will be comfortable analyzing a variety of texts with a careful eye for nuance and considering alternative viewpoints. Reading will be approximately 60-80 pages per week. Students will be expected to complete all assigned reading and come to class prepared to participate actively in class discussion. Writing assignments will include close readings of specific texts and films, two analytical papers, and a final research paper. Over the course of the semester, students will focus on all stages of the writing process: selecting an essay topic, crafting a thesis, developing and sustaining an argument, structuring units of prose, editing and proofreading, word choice, sentence flow, and other topics in grammar, mechanics, and usage.

Required Texts:

  1. Svetlana Alexievich, Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices From a Forgotten War. New York: W.W. Norton, 1992. ISBN: 0393336867
  2. Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. Penguin Classics, 1992. ISBN: 0140186247.
  3. Andrei Gelasimov. Las Vegas, NV: AmazonCrossing, 2011. ISBN: 1611090695
  1. Miljenko Jergović. Sarajevo Marlboro. Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago, 2003. ISBN: 0972869220
  1. Kurt Vonnegut. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Dial Press, 2009. ISBN: 0385333846

Prerequisite:  Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent.  Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.