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OXFORD UNIVERSITY, DEPARTMENT FOR CONTINUING EDUCATION



History& the Novel: Europe & The Shadow of War, 1914-1953


Coursework Handbook


Student Name_____________________ Hand-in Date_________________

Please pick one of the options below as a coursework exercise. Completed answers should be handed in to me by the end of the course if possible. If you would like to discuss any of the options with me before making your decision, please do.


Here are the options - Please pick A or B:
EITHER
A. Document exercises
Answer 4 exercises, from the 6 shown below. Each answer should be about 250 words long. We will look through documents in class, time permitting.
OR
B.

1.) An Essay
Choose 1 essay, from the titles listed below. The essay should be about 1000 words long.
If you pick this option, please prepare a brief one-page plan to hand in and discuss with me before the end of term. Please note too, if you have another essay topic you would like to examine, please discuss with me before the end of the course.
OR
2). A Class Presentation
You can offer a presentation on one aspect of the course. Presentations should be about ten minutes long. These will take place towards the end of the course, depending on numbers.
If you pick this option, please discuss with me beforehand what your choice will be and how you plan to structure the presentation. You will also need to submit written notes to me, setting out your main themes and points and the research you have done for it.

A. Document Exercises
Please pick FOUR out of the six questions, and write about 250 words for each

1. Britain & the Lingering Effects of World War One

Stephen felt hot and thick-headed from the wine. He was repelled by the water-gardens: their hectic abundance seemed to him close to the vegetable fertility of death. The brown waters were murky and shot through with the scurrying of rats from the banks where the earth had been dug out of trenches and held back by elaborate wooden boarding.


Heavy flies hung over the water, beneath the trees, dipping into the rotting tops of cabbages, asparagus and artichokes that had been left unpicked in their reckless prodigality. What was held to be a place of natural beauty was a stagnation of living tissue which could not be saved from decay.
Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong, p 44

Look at the above and consider the following points in your answer:




  1. What is the significance of the water-garden setting of this extract?

  2. How does the author use language and imagery to make his point?

  3. What overall impression does the extract leave us with?

  4. What issues and problems does the extract raise for historians?


2. Russia & the Ukraine– in War and Revolution

In White Guard, one can read Bulgakov’s profound shock at the Revolution, once he had seen its real face. He wrote, without his characteristic irony, “Owing to the extraordinary grandiosity of the Revolution, it would be impossible to write a lampoon on it.” One might counter that Bulgakov in fact spent his whole life as a writer writing such lampoons... Indeed, his contemporary critics accused him of this. But the critics were wrong. And, paradoxically, so was Bulgakov himself: it was actually impossible to write a lampoon of the Russian Revolution because the Russian Revolution itself was a lampoon of socialism, and bolshevism was a lampoon of Marxism.


Virtually all of Russian history is the history of such revolutions and the lampoons (“operettas”) they engendered. Some of them were bloody; some were comparatively bloodless, like the most recent one, which produced a lampoon of democracy. But every time Russia tried to throw off the odious state, it sank into chaos, and therefore returned to “order” and once again plunged into the stifling world of an oppressive police state that holds its own people in contempt.
Eugeny Dobrenko, Introduction, The White Guard, 2008 edition

Look at the above and consider the following points in your answer:




  1. What issue does the author focus on here?

  2. How does the author use language and imagery to promote his view?

  3. What overall impression does the extract leave us with?

  4. What issues and problems does the extract raise for historians?


3. France & the Divisive Legacy of World War II

It is not the narrator’s intention to attribute more significance to these health groups than they actually had. It is true that nowadays many of our fellow citizens would, in his place, succumb to the temptation to exaggerate their role.


But the narrator is rather inclined to believe that by giving too much importance to fine actions one may end by paying an indirect tribute to evil, because in doing so one implies that such fine actions are only valuable because they are rare, and that malice, or indifference are far more common motives in the actions of men...
In reality it was no great merit on the part of those who dedicated themselves to the health teams, because they knew that it was the only thing to be done and not doing it would have been incredible at the time.
Albert Camus, The Plague, p 100-101
Look at the image above and consider the following points in your answer:


  1. What is the significance of the ‘health teams’ described here, both implicit and explicit?

  2. How does the author use language and imagery to develop his theme?

  3. What overall impression does the extract leave us with?

  4. What issues and problems does the extract raise for historians?



4. Russia: Stalinism & Terror

Suddenly, in Moscow, it would appear, everyone wants to write about life in the Stalin concentration camps. The reason for this is a rather short, sparsely told, eloquent, explosive, work by Alexander Solzhenitsyn which today reaches the American public in English translation...

Solzhenitsyn has written no mere propagandistic expose. He has created a small, almost flawless classic employing the eloquence of reticence and understatement in a manner which even the fumbling of hurried translation cannot obscure... This quiet tale has struck a powerful blow against the return of the horrors of the Stalin system.

For Solzhenitsyn's words burn like acid.



Book Review, H. E. Salisbury, New York Times, January, 1963
Look at the above and consider the following points in your answer:


  1. What is the significance of the context of this review?

  2. How does the author use language and imagery?

  3. What overall impression does the review leave us with?

  4. What issues and problems does the review raise for historians?


5. Germany – Nazism & the Next Generation

TRIAL JUDGE [TJ] "None of you held back, you all acted together?”



Hanna [H] “Yes”.

TJ “Did you not know that you were sending the prisoners to their death?”



H “Yes, but the new ones came, and the old ones had to make room for the new ones.”

TJ “So, because you wanted to make room, you said you and you and you have to be sent back to be killed?”

Hanna didn’t understand what the presiding judge was getting at.

H “I... I mean... so what would you have done?”

Bernhard Schlink, The Reader, pp 110-111

Look at the above and consider the following points in your answer:




  1. What is the significance of the context of this extract?

  2. How does the author use language and imagery?

  3. What overall impression does the extract leave us with?

  4. What issues and problems does the extract raise for historians?

B. Essay Titles

Please choose ONE title and write about 1000 words:



1. Choose any one of the novels under discussion (Birdsong, The White Guard, The Plague, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Reader) and consider the following question:

How far, and in what ways, does the novel accurately reflect the reality of its historical setting?
(Here are some of the points you might want to think about in writing your essay: what historical event is the novel referring to? What aspects has the novelist included and what has he excluded? How does the novelist use characters and situations to tell his story? How does he use language and tone? How close to the event was the novelist and how might that affect his version of events?)

2. Choose any one of the periods under discussion (World War One, The Russian Revolution, France in World War II, Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany & its Legacy) and consider the following question:

What was the significance of the event in historical terms and how have novels recorded that significance?
(Here are some of the points you might want to think about in writing your essay: what makes an event historically significant? How far is it the result of historical circumstances? How far is it the result of opportunism and ambition? What effect does it have in the short term and in the long term? How do historians and novelists differ in their focus on events and on their causes and consequences?)
3. Drawing from the range of periods and novels under discussion (WWI & Birdsong, Russian Revolution & The White Guard, France in WWII & The Plague, Stalinist Russia & One Day in the Life of, Nazi Germany & The Reader) consider the following question:

How have novels influenced our understanding of the history of the 1914-53 era overall – and to what extent has that influence been a positive one?
(Here are some of the points you might want to think about in writing your essay: what images of the period dominate in popular culture? To what extent are these images the product of novelists’ fiction or of historical fact? In what ways do fictional accounts contribute to academic history? In what ways do they detract from it? How far are academic histories themselves ‘constructed’ narratives?)

Suggested Background Reading
R.Conquest, Stalin: Breaker of Nations

Mary Fulbrook, The Divided Nation: A History of Germany 1918-1990

Robert Gildea, Marianne in Chains

D.J. Goldhagen, Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust

Richard Holmes, The Western Front

M. Housden, Resistance & Conformity in the Third Reich

Martin Kitchen, Europe Between the Wars

John Keegan, The First World War

Ian Kershaw, The Nazi Dictatorship

John Laffin, British Butchers and Bunglers of World War One

Stephen J. Lee, Aspects of European History, 1789 - 1980

Stephen J. Lee European Dictatorships, 1918-1945

Martin McCauley, The Soviet Union, 1917-1991

Martin McCauley, Stalin and Stalinism

R.Pipes, The Russian Revolution, 1899-1919

Robert Service, A History of Twentieth Century Russia

Robert Service, Stalin: A Biography

Gary Sheffield, Forgotten Victory: The First World War - Myths and Realities

Alan G.V. Simmonds, Britain and World War One

Hew Strachan, The First World War: A New History

David Stevenson, 1914-1918: The History of World War One

Eric D. Weitz, Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy

ow far would you agreee’The architect of his own downfall’. How far would you agree with this mdsvmds
Please remember to include with your answers the details of any books you used to help you with the exercises.

Thank you for completing the coursework exercises, I hope you enjoyed them!






Dr. Kate Watson, OUDCE, Ewert House, 2013



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