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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991



Twentieth- and twenty-first century American and British literature and culture; the historical novel; historiography; ethics in literature

E 314L • Banned Books And Novel Ideas

34935 • Fall 2013
Meets MWF 1200pm-100pm PAR 304
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Instructor:  Howell, J            Areas:  -- / A

Unique #:  34935            Flags:  Writing

Semester:  Fall 2013            Restrictions:  n/a

Cross-lists:  n/a            Computer Instruction:  Yes

Prerequisites: E 603A, RHE 306, 306Q, or T C 603A.

What kind of stories do we tell ourselves about war? That “war is hell,” as William T. Sherman allegedly claimed? That “it is sweet and right to die for one’s country,” as an ancient poet once wrote? In times of armed conflict, we often look for stories that justify our actions, that give us courage, that impart faith in our nation, and that comfort us in the face of tragedy. But what about those texts that do the opposite—that question the morality of armed conflict, that challenge the reasons for going to war, that present an unflattering depiction of a nation, that reveal the devastating consequences of battle? In many different eras and distinct locations, people have concluded that these kinds of texts are dangerous.

This semester we will be using war as the backdrop for examining controversial novels, poems, music, and films. These works treat a range of historical conflicts, including a so-called “good war” like World War II and the divisive and politically charged Vietnam War. Most of our texts have been censored for their depictions of conflict or their arguments about war. But they are also provocative in other ways: for their portrayal of gender, sexuality, race, and class. As we examine these works, we will be asking questions like: What kinds of stories do they tell, not only about armed conflict but also about the kinds of nations that engage in warfare? And, perhaps more importantly, why exactly are these texts so threatening? What kind of “real world” power can literature have?

This course is designed to help students develop critical reading and writing skills. Class members will learn how to read literary texts closely and think about their cultural and historical contexts as well as their structure and language. They will be guided to write papers that involve analyzing literature, forming cogent arguments, conducting research, editing their compositions, and revising their work. These assignments should prepare students for a wide range of upper-division courses in English and in other departments and programs.

Texts: Course texts will likely include the following novels: Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms; Erich Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front; Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five; Duong Thu Huong, Novel Without a Name; and (recent UT alum) Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds.  In addition, we will be watching two films: Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now and Ari Folman, Waltz with Bashir.

The course packet will also include: several poems from Wilfred Owen; stories from Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried; selections from Michael Herr, Dispatches; and lyrics to songs performed by Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul, & Mary.

Requirements & Grading: Three 2-3 page critical analysis papers (45%, 15% each); One 4-6-page comparative research paper (30%); Informal writing assignments & reading quizzes (15%); Discussion and consistently engaged, active participation (10%).

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