Writing in the wake of the Civil War, poet Walt Whitman insisted that "the real war will never get in the books." Throughout American history, the experience of war has fundamentally shaped the ways that Americans think about themselves, their fellow Americans, and the meanings of national citizenship. War has also posed challenges of representation, both for those who fought as well as those who did not. This subject examines how Americans have told the stories of modern war in history, literature, and popular culture, and interprets them in terms of changing ideas about American national identity.
The success of this class depends on the active participation of all students. Classroom participation (15%) represents a substantial portion of the grade, and will be evaluated in terms of preparation, participation, active listening, collaboration, and overall contributions to the class experience during the term. Needless to say, if you do not attend a class it is impossible for you to contribute to it. In addition, all students will choose reading assignments and lead discussion (10%) during the last two weeks of the semester.
Writing assignments are frequent, but short: the first 1-2 pp. paper is ungraded, and is followed by three essays of 4-5 pp. (25% each). Writing assignments should be handed in on paper in person at the beginning of the class in which they are due. Extensions will be granted only for good reasons explained well in advance; computer malfunctions are never an acceptable excuse for a late submission. Please be sure to familiarize yourself with MIT's regulations on academic honesty and ask questions if anything is unclear.
Copies of required books for the class have been placed on reserve at the Humanities Library. A number of readings will also be made available through the library's electronic reserve system (accessible through the class website) or by handout. Readings should be completed by the beginning of the class under which they appear, unless otherwise stated. At times, homework assignments require you to watch films. Course films are on reserve at the Film Office of the Comparative Media Studies Program; they can also easily be found at commercial video rental stores in the area.