2007-08 ASM The American War Novel

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Winter Term 2007/08

Lecturer: Christina Meyer

Office Hours: Tue 3:30-4:30pm; A06 2-212

Fon: 0441-798-4570

E-Mail: christina.meyer@uni-oldenburg.de


The war novel has come into its own as a distinct genre by now. Subsequent to a detailed analysis of texts that emerged from the Civil War in America, this course will cover war literature in more general terms, beginning with WWI and ending with a short glimpse into works that have been published up to now about the Gulf War under President Bush, Sr. (e.g. Anthony Swofford's Jarhead).

This course ('klausurvorbereitend') will provide an overview of a variety of texts from the 19th century to today. Likely authors include: Ambrose Bierce, Stephen Crane, John de Forest, Erich Maria Remarque Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Norman Mailer, Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut, and Bobbie Ann Mason. The course is organized around, but not limited to, a number of key books and figures, and secondary studies on war literature(s). In addition to literary readings, the syllabus will include a variety of historical materials and a range of theoretical viewpoints.

Prerequisites for certificate: regular attendance, active participation, in-class oral presentation, periodic shrot written homework, term paper

Starting on: 22.10.2007

Please purchase: Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (Norton Critical Edition), Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (Simon & Schuster), and Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five (Laurel).



Oct. 22, 2007


Oct. 29, 2007

            The Civil War
            Presentation: “Significant Events prior to, during and subsequent to the 
            American Civil War”

Part II: The Civil War

Nov. 5, 2007

            Fictions about the Civil War
            Presentation: “Ambrose Bierce – Soldier and Writer”
            Texts: Ambrose Bierce, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” & “The Coup de Grâce”

Nov. 12, 2007

            Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

Written Assignment I: Summary of Crane’s text

Nov. 19, 2007

            Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage, cont’d

Nov. 26, 2007

            Glory (film; excerpts)
            Text: David Bordwell & Kristin Thompson, Film Art. An Introduction (excerpts)

Dec. 3, 2007

            Filmic Representation
            Presentation: “The Civil War on Screen” 
            Written Assignment II: Essay (topic will be distributed in class)

Part III: The War Novel in 20th Century America

Dec. 10, 2007

            Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (excerpts)
            Presentation: “Shell Shock – Legacies of a War”

Dec. 17, 2007

            Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to the Arms (excerpts)
            Joseph Heller, Catch-22 (beginning)


Jan. 7, 2008

            Joseph Heller, Catch-22, cont’d

Jan. 14, 2008

            Joseph Heller, Catch-22, cont’d

Jan. 21, 2008

            Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (beginning)

Jan. 28, 2008

            Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, cont’d 
            Written Assignment III: (topic distributed in class)

Febr. 4, 2007

            Bobbie Ann Mason, In Country (excerpts)
            Presentation: “The Vietnam Veterans Memorial” 

Reading Requirements

  • Bierce, Ambrose. Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. Ed. Tom Quirk. New York, London et al.: Penguin, 2000. (excerpts)
  • Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson. Film Art. An Introduction. 6th ed. New York: Graw-Hill, 2001. (excerpts)
  • Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Ed. Donald Pizer. 3rd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1994.
  • Heller, Joseph. Catch-22. 1955. New York: Dell, 1994.
  • Hemingway, Ernest. A Farewell to Arms. 1929. New York, London et al.: Scribner, 2003. (excerpts)
  • Mason, Bobbi Ann. In Country. New York: Perennial Library, 1985. (excerpts)
  • Remarque, Erich Maria. All Quiet on the Western Front. Trans. A. W. Wheen. Boston: Little, Brown & Comp., 1929. (excerpts)
  • Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty Dance with Death. 1969. New York: Dell, 1991.

Texts are available at “Wersig” (copy shop, Ammerländer Heerstr. 108). Reading suggestions and additional texts (for oral presentations) will be made available in the course reader on the reserve shelf in the library. Further texts will be distributed in class, and/or will be made available in the library.

Reading Suggestions

  • Aaron, Daniel. The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War. 1973. Tuscaloosa & London: U of Alabama P, 2003.
  • Fahs, Alice. The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North & South, 1861-1865. Chapel Hill, NC & London: U of North Carolina P, 2001.
  • Hölbling, Walter. Fiktionen vom Krieg im neueren amerikanischen Roman. Tübinger Beiträge zur Anglistik 10. Tübingen: G. Narr, 1987.
  • Limon, John. Writing After War: American War Fiction from Realism to Postmodernism. New York & Oxford: Oxford UP, 1994.
  • McPherson, James M., and William J. Cooper, Jr., eds. Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand. Columbia, SC: U of South Carolina P, 1998.
  • Monaco, James. How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia. New York et al.: Oxford UP, 2000.
  • Pizer, Donald, ed. The Cambridge Companion to American Realism and Naturalism – Howells to London. Cambridge, UK, New York et al.: Cambridge UP, 1995.
  • Slocum, David J., ed. Hollywood and War: The Film Reader. New York et al.: Routledge, 2006.
  • Tatum, James. The Mourner’s Song: War and Remembrance from the Iliad to Vietnam. Chicago et al.: U of Chicago P, 2003.
  • Vernon, Alex. Soldiers Once and Still: Ernest Hemingway, James Salter, and Tim O’Brien. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 2004.
  • Virilio, Paul. War and Cinema: The Logistics of Perception. 6th ed. Trans. Patrick Camiller. London & New York: Verson, 2000.
  • Walsh, Jeffrey. American War Literature 1914 to Vietnam. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982.
  • Watts, Ian. The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson and Fielding. 1957. London: Pimilco, 2000.
  • Wetta, Frank J. and Martin A. Novelli. “‘Now a Major Motion Picture’: War Films and Hollywood’s New Patriotism.” The Journal of Military History 67.3 (2003): 861-882.
  • White, Hayden. “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality.” Critical Inquiry 7.1 (Autumn 1980): 5-27.


Term Paper (Suggestions)

  • “The Real War Will Never get in the Books” – Realism and War Literature
  • (Leit)motifs in War Fiction
  • Writing the Civil War
  • Questions of Race and Nation in Filmic Responses to the American Civil War
  • History on Screen: WWI in the Movies
  • Aspects of Masculinity in the War Novels by Ernest Hemingway
  • Narrative Strategies in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
  • The Filmic Adaptation of Joseph Heller’s Catch-22
  • The Role of the Media in War Fiction
  • WWII in the Hollywood War Film
  • M*A*S*H – War in the TV Mini Series Format
  • Postmodern War Novels?
  • Concepts of Race, Class and Gender in War Literature(s)
  • The Disasters of War in Art, Film, and Literature
  • Poems about War
  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five: A Trauma Narrative?