WAR AND FAMILY MEMORY
THE MISSION: To prepare a ten-minute presentation and a 2+ page journal entry that explores some aspect of the role that war and war memory has played in your family's history.
THE PURPOSE: To encourage you to learn about your family's past and to think about the ways in which this history has helped to shape your own understanding of war. To explore the relationship between private and public memory.
There is a great deal of flexibility with the assignment. I encourage you to shape this project to fit your own needs, interests and summer circumstances. For some of you, an interview or research may be involved. Others may choose to write a reflective essay that draws exclusively on their own memories.
For those of you who need some structure, I recommend you choose one of the following four models:
1) The Comprehensive Model
How would you begin to describe the ways in which your family has been influenced by war? Is there a "military tradition" in the family? What did various family members do in different wars and how was the family changed by these experiences? Are war stories ever told? If so, how are these framed and is there a family mythology? Are there tensions either within the family history or between the public (ie. national) story and the private memories? Where are the silences and what is the significance/impact of these? How have you been shaped by the history and the memories? An interview or interviews are possible but certainly not required.
2) The One-War Model
Use the same basic set of questions as in the comprehensive model, but limit yourself to a war that either particularly influenced your family or that is talked about often. Focus upon both the history and the ways in which the memories are framed.
3) The One-Person Model
Choose one family member whose life has intersected with one or more wars in an interesting way. The person need not be a veteran. Write a short biographical essay that recounts the history here, and attempts to assess how the experiences of war has shaped this person and his or her place in family memory. An individual interview is an option for this model. A transcript of the interview could serve as a substitute for your own mini-essay (though proper preparation for an interview and transcribing are both time-consuming).
4) The Personal Model
Write a mini-essay in which you attempt to relate both your family history and your personal experiences to your own ideas about war. What are your war memories? How do you remember being influenced by the images of war, whether through first-hand experiences, your family, your schooling or the media? How and why have your ideas changed over time? What tensions, if any, are there between your philosophy and those of other family members, and how would you account for these? To what degree do you think you might be influenced by a partially buried or forgotten family past? What questions will you need to answer before you can better understand your own relationship with your family's history?