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Georgetown University


Detailed Course Information


Fall 2017
Jan 18, 2018
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ENGL 168 - Lit, Art, & Film of WWI
The somberly sonorous voice of Yeats in his 1920 “The Second Coming” perhaps most wondrously confronts both the horror of WWI, the brute itself, and the ensuing madness unleashed upon a new century perceiving its ideals lost but not gone: “Turning and turning in the widening gyre. . . Things fall apart. . . The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere [t]he ceremony of innocence is drowned. . . And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, [s]louches toward Bethelehem to be born?” Modernism’s vision ghosts the war’s bitter but resilient afterbirth, offering us a battlefield strewn with individual suffering and resurrection beside the mass shame and redemption. And we, the 2017 readers in English 168.01 enter the surreal fray begun in 1914 of chivalric courage that becomes the sacrificial charge to rescue friend and the barbaric attack to defeat foe. This course invites its participants to read a medley of perspectives and genres of WWI literature in order to ask how and why this war both reflected and catapulted change in the ways we understand and value life, provoking such questions as where is our present or immediate identity, both individual and collective? How did this particular war cause chivalry to give way to the monstrous? What happens to perception when the beautifully strong becomes the grotesque freak? Did we land in the abyss of the Great War’s aftermath because we leapt from Edwardian extravagance or Victorian hubris or even complacency? How might we justify an idealistic regard (nostalgia) for the past, given our shattered memory? How do we sustain a hope that both trembles before and yearns toward a future in the wake of futility? Why did this world experience both destroy the lives of so many but also propel liberation for women? How and to what effect did technological advances – even with humanitarian aims - participate in moral degradation AND ruin the earth on which it trod? Why did so many artists respond NOT with anger or grief but instead with cynical detachment – did they reflect the sympathies of the masses or were they a movement unto themselves? These question allow us to probe interstices of utopian and dystopian studies as well as expose us to the timely contemplation of the Anthropocene – how human industry’s foot (boot and machine) print ruined Nature’s landscapes forever. We will read film, poem, and novel of the western front, but also enter the lesser known spaces of the eastern fronts which will allow us to re-consider today’s war’s in the Middle East. Participants will complete two short essays (one argumentative and one rewriting a Hemingway passage in the voice of Virginia Woolf) and one longer argumentative research paper, come to each class prepared to interact in critical thinking responses to texts and their ideas, and collaborate with colleagues to prepare a panel on a particular aspect of the war, including military tactics, gender politics, mourning and loss, images – photos, paintings, and film. Two exciting prospects for Fall 2017 include a) primary research opportunities at both GU’s Lauinger’s Special Collections (we own etchings, journals, posters, documents, and books, including a thriller by A. Conan Doyle of Sherlock fame, galore created during this war) and The Library of Congress, hosting a unique exhibit of U.S. artistic responses to The Great War; b) a private audience with architect Joseph Weisharr (25 year-old of Chicago) and New York sculptor, Sabin Howard, who won the contest for designing the new DC WWI Memorial, “The Weight of Sacrifice”, in Pershing Park D.C.

3.000 Credit hours
3.000 Lecture hours
0.000 Lab hours

Levels: Undergraduate
Schedule Types: Lecture

English Department

Course Attributes:
HALC - Hum, Art, Lit, Cul, Mean Grade is Calculated

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Release: 8.7.2