“Since wars begin in the minds of men,” reads the UNESCO charter, “it is in the minds of men that we have to erect the ramparts of peace.”  This course explores how humans have struggled to understand, memorialize, and learn from war.  Although the course uses a comparative thematic approach, there is a heavy emphasis upon twentieth—century wars, since this will both provide a focus and allow us to probe the politicized relationship between lived memory and history.  “War,” notes the journalist Chris Hedges, “is a force that gives us meaning.”  War and Memory aims to use monuments, memorials, museums, myths, paintings, photographs, weapons, flags, cartoons, family stories, novels, and movies as sources for thinking about the ways in which war is remembered and defined.

Some Organizing Questions To Think About As You Proceed Throughout The Semester

What is "collective memory"?  How useful is it as a concept?  How do societies remember?  How would you compare and contrast individual memory with broader group processes?

Who decides how the past should be commemorated?  What is the role of the state?

What is a "war story"?  Who is qualified to tell one and why?  Does one need to have experienced war to begin to understand it?

What is the purpose of a war monument or memorial?  To what extent are these effective entry points into exploring collective understanding of historical events and debates?

How would you compare monuments and memorials to museums, war literature, photographs, art, music, film, memoirs and other cultural representations of war?

What is the relationship between public and private memories of war?  Between lived memory and history?  Between public memory and politics?

How have military conflicts shaped national mythology and identity?

How would you compare and contrast the culture of defeat with the culture of victory?  Are the memories of the vanquished typically more thoughtful than those of the victorious?  What challenges are faced by the losers of a war?

How would you compare and contrast soldiers' memories of war with civilians' memories of war?

How would you compare and contrast male perspectives on war memory with female ones?

How would you compare and contrast the public commemoration of war to the public commemoration of peace?  How is the relationship between the two framed within the public arena?

To what extent is the division between perpetrators, victims and bystanders a useful one in analyzing war memory?


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