This course offers an in-depth look at twentieth century American representations of war through the literature of three major authors: Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, and Tim O’Brien. We’ll discuss and compare these authors’ representations of World War I (Hemingway), World War II (Vonnegut), and the U.S. War in Vietnam (O’Brien). Topics may include debates about courage and cowardice, the lingering effects of war trauma, ways that these narratives cling to or challenge traditional gender expectations, how authors integrate history and fiction in their accounts, and the search for a literary form that can adequately convey the horrors of war. Students will read both historical background material and literary criticism as they work to develop their own interpretations of the novels we study.
Hemingway: In Our Time; The Sun Also Rises; A Farewell to Arms
Vonnegut: Mother Night; Cat’s Cradle; Slaughterhouse-Five
O’Brien: Going After Cacciato; The Things They Carried; In the Lake of the Woods