Undergraduate Course: Cultural Responses to War (ELCC08006)
|School||School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 8 (Year 2 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||This course examines cultural responses to war, asking how writers, combatants, and civilians have responded to the political and aesthetic challenges of representing war and its impact. We will focus on conflicts since 1900, exploring case studies that cover a range of genres, media, and national contexts. All the texts are in English or in English translation.
If the quota for this course is full and you would like to be placed on a reserve list, please email the course secretary. If you have not received an offer of a place by Friday of week 1, you should assume that you will not be able to take the course.
Cultural responses to war are often driven by a sense of moral responsibility to bear witness: to report and understand what happened, acknowledge trauma, commemorate the dead, and in many cases to warn future generations. Memoirs and oral histories may attempt to articulate the personal experiences behind the facts and statistics of military history, with participants telling 'what it was really like' on the ground. But the mass casualties, geographical scale, and brutality of modern conflicts pose formidable challenges to representation, raising the question of what it is possible to articulate through language and art. These problems are compounded by the fact that culture is always already implicated in discourses of war: even in pacifist writing, attempts to salvage meaning and humanity from war may perpetuate the tropes of comradeship, heroism, and individual sacrifice that are mobilized in support of military action.
This course explores how writers, combatants, and civilians have responded to these challenges, focusing on case studies featuring a range of genres, media, and contexts. We will explore questions of voice and perspective: who is speaking, from what position, and on behalf of whom? How do speakers construct their claims to authority and authenticity? How should we treat reported personal experience compared to creative artistic responses, and what might the areas of common ground be between them? How do responses articulate the impact of war, and how do they connect the personal, the local, and the global? What political, aesthetic and rhetorical strategies do they employ, and how do they negotiate the ethics and limits of cultural representation? We will consider our own positions and responsibilities as readers and viewers, and how we respond to different genres, media, and aesthetic strategies.
Please note the quota for this course will be raised to 35 once places have been allocated to Year 2 DELC students.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
||Other requirements|| None
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||1,000-word source analysis: using knowledge gained from their reading about the challenges of representing war, students will write a commentary analysing the strategies used in selected extracts from the course (40%)
1,500-word coursework essay: students will answer ONE question drawing on their knowledge of TWO or more case studies from the course (60%).
Pass/fail grade for constructive engagement: to pass this component, the student needs to submit a 250-word report on the discussion in their ALG for one topic covered on the course. This is not included in the assessment word count because tutors will read it during time cut from face-to-face teaching hours, and because it will not receive a numerical mark.
||Students will receive individual written feedback on their commentary and on their essay.
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the aesthetic and ethical challenges of representing war;
- Construct clear and coherent arguments about cultural responses to these challenges;
- Illustrate these arguments using close analysis of the themes, form and style of cultural representations;
- Contextualize and critique these cultural representations with reference to further reading;
- Tailor the presentation of their research to different formats (commentaries and essays).
Berger, John, 'Photographs of Agony', in About Looking (London: Bloomsbury, 1972), pp. 41-4
McLoughlin, Kate, Authoring War: The Literary Representation of War from the 'Iliad' to Iraq (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), esp. introduction
Sontag, Susan, Regarding the Pain of Others (London: Hamish Hamilton, 2003)
Coffman, E., 'Talking about War: Reflections on Doing Oral History and Military History', The Journal of American History, 87. 2 (Sept. 2000), 582-592
Norris, Margot, Writing War in the Twentieth Century (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2000)
Scarry, Elaine, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: OUP, 1985), esp. Chapter 2: 'The Structure of War'
Baraban, Elena V., Stephan Jaeger, and Adam Muller, eds, Fighting Words and Images: Representing War Across the Disciplines (London: University of Toronto Press, 2012)
Bevan, David, ed., Literature and War (Amsterdam and Atlanta, GA: Rodopi, 1990)
Hynes, Samuel, The Soldiers' Tale: Bearing Witness to Modern War (London: Pimlico, 1998)
Knightley, Phillip, The Eye of War: Words and Photographs from the Front Line, introduction by John Keegan, pictures edited by Sarah Jackson and Annabel Merullo (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2003)
Taylor, John, Body Horror: Photojournalism, Catastrophe and War (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1998)
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||During this course, students will further develop graduate attributes and personal and professional skills in the following areas:
Research and enquiry: analytical thinking; critical thinking; knowledge integration and application; handling complexity and ambiguity.
Personal and intellectual autonomy: self-awareness and reflection; independent learning and development; creative and inventive thinking.
Personal effectiveness: planning, organising and time management; assertiveness and confidence; flexibility.
Communication: interpersonal skills; verbal and written communication.
||The quota for this course will be raised to 35 once places have been allocated to Year 2 DELC students.
|Course organiser||Prof Laura Bradley
Tel: (0131 6)50 3634
|Course secretary||Mrs Alexandra Marie Aedo Mezeul
Tel: (0131 6)50 3702