Peace Studies/English 360: War, Memory, & Literature

Dr. Richard Ruppel


Useful Links
Updated February 14, 2019


Office: 428 N. Glassell, Office 101
Office Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, & Thursday10:30-11:30 am, & by appointment   

Phone: 997-6754 (office)
Class Meetings: Tuesday/Thursday 1-2:15 pm – DeMille Hall, 148


·         Feminist scholar and activist Carol J Adams, “The Sexual Politics of Meat”: March 6th.



 Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway.  Harcourt, 2005
Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms.
Scribner, 2014
Elie Wiesel, Night.  Hill & Wang, 2006
Ruth Klüger
. Still Alive: A Holocaust Girlhood Remembered.  Feminist Press, 2003
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five.  Dell, 1991.
Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried.  Mariner Books, 2009. 
Dương Thu Hương, Novel without a Name.  Penguin, 1996.
Phil Klay, Redeployment. Penguin, 2015.  (Optional)

Course Description and Objectives:


War and conflict have been the central inspiration of literature since human beings began writing. The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Mesopotamia, composed over four thousand years ago, depicts King Gilgamesh’s battles with various demi-gods.  In the Hebrew Bible, known to Jews as The Tanakh and to Christians as the Old Testament, Jehovah is shown leading the Jews to victory in battle (or to defeat if they have been disobedient). The great Indian epic, the Mahabharata, is centrally concerned with war, and The Iliad and Odyssey, with the Bible the most influential literary productions of the West, depict the Trojan War in some detail, along with its origins and consequences.


This course will focus on the war literature of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  Before the twentieth century, authors most often treated war solemnly.  In literature, war brought glory. Here is part of the most famous tribute to war in English, from Shakespeare’s Henry V, spoken by King Henry before the Battle of Agincourt: 


From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.


(And here is Kenneth Branagh’s stirring rendition.)


But the great wars of the twentieth century, anticipated by our own Civil War, introduced increasingly accurate and deadly techniques and weapons, and the inspiring words long associated with battle: glory, courage, honor – all accompanied by and confirmed by God’s sanction – began to ring hollow.  World War II, with its Holocaust association and its destruction of whole cities, culminating in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, fundamentally changed our vision of war.  Now I am become Death,” Robert Oppenheimer said after the first successful test of the atomic bomb, quoting from the Bhagavad Gita, “the destroyer of worlds.” 

So this introduction to war literature will be skewed, and we will see war treated less as a path to glory than as a tragic waste, a foolish and useless source of pain and death, or even as a terrible, black comedy.  In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, God continues to lead some people to war, but for others, God can only be invoked in the name of peace, and for still others, the wars of the last century prove that God is dead. 


We will read a small selection of poetry, stories, novels, and essays provoked by the World Wars, the Holocaust, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars. These readings are difficult; at times you will want to turn away. Our challenge will be to maintain an analytical, academic tone at the same time that we respond emotionally to these works of great sadness, pain, and, sometimes, beauty. 


Our Course Learning Outcomes:


1.    You will practice a good deal of critical reading, including poetry, leading you to learn to identify and analyze the formal, rhetorical, and stylistic features of different genres.

2.    You will improve your understanding of the development of war literature through the 20th and 21st centuries in its historical context. 

3.    As in most English courses, you will work on your writing this semester.  We will have writing workshops before the first essay is due, and you will be allowed to revise one of your essays.

Weekly Syllabus*

Week 1 – January 29-31: Classical, Biblical, and Medieval Accounts of War
Week 2 – February 5-7:  World War I Poetry & Ernest Hemingway. 

Week 3 – February 12-14: Hemingway
Week 4 – February 19-21:  Virginia Woolf
Week 5 – February 26-28: Woolf.  The Holocaust & WWII:  Elie Wiesel
Week 6 – March 5-7: Elie Wiesel

Week 7 – March 12-14: Elie Wiesel and Ruth Klüger (Paper 1 due, March 14)


Spring Break!

Week 8
– March 26-28: Ruth Klüger.
Week 9
– April 2-4: Midterm. Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. 
Week 10 – April 9-11: Travesties of War:  Vonnegut/Vietnam,Tim O’Brien

Week 11 – April 16-18:  The Things They Carried; Dương Thu Hương, Novel Without a Name
Week 12 – April 23-25:
Novel Without a Name; Phil Klay, Redeployment
Week 13 – April 30-May 2:

Week 14 – May 7-9:, wrap-up and preparation for final (Paper 2 due, May 9)
Week 15 Final:  Thursday, May 16, 8-10:30am. 

*We may agree to change the syllabus, but I'll give you plenty of notice, and I'll keep the syllabus updated on the Web. 

Course and Paper Requirements

Final drafts of your papers should be submitted both as hard copies in class and via email.  All students will write one of the required essays.  But some of you might decide to submit some other project in lieu of one of the essays.  We’ll discuss possibilities in class. 

If you anticipate having trouble getting an assignment in on time, let me know in advance. Unexcused late papers or projects will be marked down one letter grade per week.

You will be allowed 4 free absences through the semester. But you will not pass this class if you miss 6 or more classes.

Keep on top of the reading and other work through the semester. If you haven't read the assignment, you will find our class discussion both incomprehensible and dull.

Minutes: Each of you will keep minutes for one week, sharing the duties with a partner.  Those minutes will be due the following Monday, and I will post them in Blackboard. 

Assignments & Participation*: 15%
Minutes:  10%
Essay 1: 15% (5-6 pages)
Essay 2: 20% (6-7 pages)
Midterm:  15%
Final: 20%

*This is primarily your grade on the Blackboard Discussion Board posts.  Here are my criteria for evaluating your posts:

1. The posting should respond as specifically as possible to the prompt (or you should indicate why you’re modifying the prompt).

2. The posting should reveal close engagement with the work under discussion.

3. The posting should contribute to the discussion, so later postings should not simply repeat earlier postings, and they should reflect some engagement with earlier postings.

4. Postings should be substantive. 


Chapman University Academic Integrity Policy

Chapman University is a community of scholars that emphasizes the mutual responsibility of all members to seek knowledge honestly and in good faith.  Students are responsible for doing their own work, and academic dishonesty of any kind will be subject to sanction by the instructor and referral to the university's Academic Integrity Committee, which may impose additional sanctions up to and including dismissal.  (See the Undergraduate Catalog for the full policy.)


Chapman Equity and Diversity Policy:

Chapman University is committed to ensuring equality and valuing diversity.  Students and professors are reminded to show respect at all times as outlined in Chapman’s Harassment and Discrimination Policy.  Any violations of this policy should be discussed with the professor, the Dean of Students and/or otherwise reported in accordance with this policy. 


Chapman's Students with Disabilities Policy:

In compliance with ADA guidelines, students who have any condition, either permanent or temporary, that might affect their ability to perform in this class are encouraged to inform the instructor at the beginning of the term. The University, through the Disability Services Office, will work with the appropriate faculty member who is asked to provide the accommodations for a student in determining what accommodations are suitable based on the documentation and the individual student needs. The granting of any accommodation will not be retroactive and cannot jeopardize the academic standards or integrity of the course.  If you have ANY concerns about completing course requirements, let me know.   

Useful Links


Achilles & Patroclus. The archetype of transcendent friendships among soldiers.



·         Dactylic meter: Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1854).  Video reading. 

·         Anapestic meter: Byron’s “The Destruction of Sennacherib” (1815). Video reading. 


World War One

·         The Poetry Foundation’s fine collection of WWI poetry, with a brief introduction. 

·         War Poetry Website. 

·         Images of WWI, from the Britannica Website. 

·         Interesting New Yorker article on Rupert Brooke. 

·         Pro-war poetry.  Julian Grenfell, “Into Battle.” Jessie Pope: “The World War I Poet Kids are Taught to Dislike” (BBC), “War Girls,” “No!” “Who’s for the Game?”


Farewell to Arms

·         Passage from Huck Finn demonstrating Hemingway’s stylistic source.

·         Westron wynde” referred to on page 171. 

·         A video reference to the novel in The Silver Linings Playbook, supplied by Joey. 

·         Trailer to the 1932 film, with Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes.  And the full movie. 


Mrs. Dalloway

·         David Bradshaw’s (no relation to William) fine analysis of the way the novel responds to WWI. 


The Holocaust

·         The Rogers Center for Holocaust Education at Chapman. 

·         Elie Wiesel bio from “The Academy of Achievement.”

·         Brief, edited interview with Elie Wiesel in 2014.  Video obituary, NYTimes. Interview with Charlie Rose. 

·         United States Holocaust Museum.

·         Holocaust Timeline.

·         Simon Wiesenthal Center. 

·         The Los Angeles Museum of Tolerance. 

·         Poetry.  First They Came for the Jews”; “Holocaust Poem”; “The Little Boy with Hands Up”; “The Burning of the Books,” “Daddy.”

·         Jewish Women’s Archive biography of Ruth Klüger. 

·         2001 review of Still Alive in the NY Times – critical of Klüger’s feminism. 

·         Ruth Klüger discusses the reception of Still Alive. She speaks at UCSB and reads from her book.  She speaks at Oregon State University on “The Shoah in Literature.”   


World War II

·         Poems:  High Flight,” John Magee; “i sing of olaf, glad and big,” e.e. cummings; “Death of the Ball Turret Gunner,” Randall Jarrell.



·         Tim O’Brien, on why he writes about Vietnam.  Interviewed about The Things They Carried. 

·         Poems:  Yusef Komunyakaa, “Tu Do Street.” Leroy Quintana, “Natural History.” Robert Borden, “Meat Dreams: A Poem of the Vietnam War.” 

·         Trailer to Apocalypse Now. 

·         Biography of Thu Hương Dương; thorough NYTimes article from 2005; the one YouTube I’ve found in English. 

·         The story of Au Co and Lac Long Quan, a founding myth of Vietnam referred to on p. 247. 


Gulf Wars


Respite from our readings and discussions (supplied by former and current students): 

·         Michelle Obama on the Late Show. 

·         Michelle Obama Carpool Karaoke.





For Thursday, January 31:  Read Thomas Hardy’s “Channel Firing,” “Drummer Hodge,” (reading), “A Wife in London,” “The Man He Killed”; Rupert Brooke, “The Soldier”; A. E. Housman, “Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries”; Hugh MacDiarmid, “Another Epitaph on an Army of Mercenaries”; Carl Sandburg, “Grass”; e.e. cummings, “my sweet old etcetera,” (read) “i sing of olaf glad and big,” (read) & (read); and Siegfried Sassoon’s “The Redeemer,” “Christ and the Soldier,” “They,” “The Hero,” “The General,” “Glory of Women,” “Everyone Sang”). Be prepared to read aloud and discuss one of the poems. Begin reading Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, which we’ll begin discussing Thursday, February 7.


For Tuesday, February 5:  Read Wilfred Owen’s “Anthem of Doomed Youth,” (read), “Dulce Et Decorum Est” (read), “Exposure,” Insensibility,” “The Send-Off,” “Futility,” “Strange Meeting,” “The Sentry,” “Spring Offensive.” By 8pm Monday, February 4, on the Blackboard Discussion page, briefly describe the ways the poetry we have read both confirmed and contradicted your sense of what constitutes "war literature."  And continue reading A Farewell to Arms. 


For Thursday, February 7:  Be sure to have read the first two books of A Farewell to Arms:  through the end of Chapter 24 (through p. 140 in our edition). 


For Tuesday, February 12:  Finish A Farewell to Arms. 


For Thursday, February 14:  Respond to the prompt in the Blackboard discussion thread: discuss one or more of the ways gender and love intersect with war in the novel. We’ll begin Mrs. Dalloway next week.  Be sure to have the first 100 pages read by Thursday, February 21. 


For Tuesday, February 19:  Begin Mrs. Dalloway. 



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