Telling the War Story

Term: Spring 2011

Subject Code: GHIS

Course Number: 5117

For Europeans in general, and for scholars in particular, the Great War of 1914-18 was the shaping event of the twentieth century - an event that not only set the frame for future developments but persists in memory to the present. Yet the specific legacies of the war have been understood differently by different kinds of authors writing in different times, in different genres, and within different historiographical frameworks. This course examines various interpretations of the war, seeking to uncover what the war has meant and the implications of these different understandings across time. It asks: How did eye-witness accounts shape the war story? How did the understanding of the war's legacies change in light of subsequent conflicts, including the Holocaust, the Cold War and the war in Vietnam? What role did novelists and filmmakers play in telling the war story? And how have such popular accounts intersected with those of professional historians? Why and how do particular aspects of the war gain special resonance in different moments? Finally, what is at stake now as the war recedes in time and memory? In addressing these questions, the course uses primary and secondary documents, novels and film to explore the creation and transformation of historical knowledge as new generations make meaning from the past.

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