Course Goals

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Dr. Sara D. Schotland Syllabus HONR 209W Spring 2016

War Stories: Examining the War Experience through Personal Narratives, Fiction, and Film

This course examines the experience of war by from the perspective of the soldier, his or her family, veterans, and prisoners. We will read fictional works and personal narratives, and watch documentary films and Hollywood movies, dating from the Civil War up to and including the War in Iraq. Through these stories we will examine how soldiers cope with the challenges of war, including the “fog” of the battlefield; tests of personal courage; fear of death and injury; the role of peer bonding; survivor guilt; and post-traumatic stress disorder. We will examine moral questions that arise for soldiers and commanders. We will look at the challenges of war from the perspective of families on the home front and the difficulties that veterans face in reentry into civilian life. We will consider how the experience of war may differ for women soldiers and veterans. We will also consider the enemy’s “war stories,” including narratives that convey the experiences of German and Japanese soldiers. We will gain an appreciation of significant differences in how specific wars are portrayed given the perspective and rhetorical agenda of authors and producers.
Course Goals

  • Analyze how literature and films reflect and also shape public attitudes toward war, peace, and foreign policy initiatives.

  • Analyze how literature and films convey to the public the true impact of war—casualties to soldiers, impact on civilians, potential for life-altering effects on returning veterans.

  • Analyze the role of personal narratives in conveying the combat experience—both the effect on the civilian audience and the therapeutic effect on the veteran narrator.

  • Understand how representations of war in film and literature contribute to mythmaking and truth-telling about war.

  • Investigate the different ways that particular wars (e.g., WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, the Iraq War) are portrayed in literature and film.

  • Investigate the experience of African American, Asian-American, and women soldiers based on their personal narratives

  • Develop skills in analyzing rhetoric in literature and film.

Schedules of Readings for Class Meetings (Tuesdays 2-430 pm)

  • Class 1 January 26 Introduction to Course; World War I: Life and Death in the Trenches

    • Read Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

    • Film in class: Gallipoli

  • Class 2 February 2 : Our World War II

    • Read Vonnegut, Slaughter House Five (at least chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 10)

    • Film in class: Saving Private Ryan

  • Class 3 February 9 Their World War II: The View from Japan

    • Read: Cook, Japan at War: An Oral History Part One (ELMS)

    • Read: Kuwahara and Allred, Kamikaze: A Japanese Pilot’s Own Spectacular Story (ELMS)

    • Film in class: Letters from Iwo Jima

  • Class 4 February 16 Short essay due; Their World War II, cont.

    • Read: Letters from Stalingrad (ELMS)

    • Post essays to ELMS dropbox and bring copy to class

    • In class: discussion of student essays

  • Class 5 February 23 Concentration Camps; The African American Experience

    • Read Levi, Survival at Auschwitz (ELMS)

    • Read Kessler, Stubborn Twig (ELMS)

    • Watch in advance of class: Tuskegee Experiment Oral Histories from the Collection of the National WWII Museum


    • Read Terry, Bloods: Black Veterans of the Vietnam War (ELMS)

    • In class: Glory

  • Class 6 March 1 Home Front; Veteran Re-Entry

    • Read: Fallon stories, You Know When the Men are Gone (ELMS)

    • Read: Jones, “They Were Soldiers Once” (ELMS)

    • Read: Finkel, “The Return” (ELMS)

    • Read: PTSD Articles (ELMS)

    • Review in advance of class: PTSD Vet Admin web site

    • Films in Class: Born on the Fourth of July; PTSD Exposure Treatment, 60 Minutes (ELMS)

  • March 8 Deadline for signing up on Discussion Board –Topic for Midterm Film

  • Class 7 March 8 Vietnam

    • Read: Broyles, “Why Men Love War” (ELMS)

    • Read: McLean, Loon (ELMS)

    • Read: Smith, “Ia Draing” (ELMS)

    • Read: O’Brien, “The Things They Carried,” The Man I Killed,” “How to Tell a True War Story” (ELMS)

    • Film in class: Full Metal Jacket

  • No class March 15 Spring Break

  • Class 8 March 22 Vietnam continued (class meeting)

    • Read: Caputo, Rumor of War (ELMS)

    • Watch in advance of class: Interviews with Mylai veterans (You Tube)



    • Film in class: Platoon

  • Class 9 March 29 Visit to Hornbake Library; Iraq Experience: Women in Combat;

    • Read: “Dear Home Front” New Yorker (June 2006) (ELMS)

    • Read: Klay, Redeployment stories (ELMS)

    • Read: Holmstedt, Band of Sisters (ELMS)

    • Read: Holmstedt, The Girls Come Marching Home: Stories of Women Warriors Returning from the War in Iraq (ELMS)

    • Meet at Hornbake Library Special Collections

  • Class 10 April 5 Student PowerPoint Presentations on War Films (10)

  • Class 11 April 12 Student PowerPoint Presentations on War Films (10)

  • Class 12 April 19 Ethical Issues: The Inhumanity of War

    • Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act  I, sc. 2; Act 3, sc. 3 and 6;  and Act 4  (except sc. 7)

    • Film in Class: Branaugh’s Henry V

    • Film in Class: Abu Ghraib (Kennedy documentary) (You Tube)

  • Class 13 April 26 Ethical Issues: The Inhumanity of War, cont.

    • Read Cook, Japan at War, Part 2 (“Hiroshima”) (ELMS)

    • Read: Human Rights Watch, “Torture in Iraq” (ELMS)

    • Read: Winter Soldier-testimony of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans (ELMS—also available on You Tube-Democracy Now)

    • Film in class : Soldiers of Conscience (You Tube)

  • Class 14 May 5 Student Presentations of final projects (10).

  • Class 15 May 10 Student Presentations of final projects (10).

May 10 Final Projects due
Texts Required to be Purchased

  • Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five (Dell 1991) ISBN 978-0440180296

  • Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front (Ballantine Mass Market 1987) ISBN 978-0449213940

As discussed in the course requirements guide, students are asked to prepare (a) one short essay based on a personal war narrative (may be a true account found on a web site or a true account involving a family member) OR based on published short story addressing a war experience (four double spaced pages); b) an individual ten minute presentation to the class on rhetoric in film, and (c) a final power point presentation OR, optionally, an original work of fiction of ten pages. The final paper or project will be due at the end of the course. In addition, students are expected to attend class regularly and will be graded in part on the quality of class participation, in particular participation that reflects mastery of the reading and close attention in class.

Office Hours

Before and after class or please arrange an appointment by email:,

Academic Integrity & the Honors College

The University is an academic community. Its fundamental purpose is the pursuit of knowledge. Like all other communities, the University can function properly only if its members adhere to clearly established goals and values. Essential to the fundamental purpose of the University is the commitment to the principles of truth and academic honesty. Accordingly, the Code of Academic Integrity is designed to ensure that the principle of academic honesty is upheld. While all members of the University share this responsibility, The Code of Academic Integrity is designed so that special responsibility for upholding the principle of academic honesty lies with the students.

All University of Maryland students are asked to write and sign the following Honor Pledge to all submitted assignments and exams:

I pledge on my honor that I have not given or received any unauthorized assistance on this assignment/examination.

The University of Maryland honor system is fully described in the Code of Academic Integrity. Please read: The Code is administered by an all-student Honor Council. The student Honor Council office is located in room 2118 Mitchell Building and can be reached at 301-314-8204.

The Honors College works to enrich its community life by promoting an atmosphere of honesty, trust, and mutual responsibility. In the event that a Honors College student is found responsible for a violation of the Code of Academic Integrity by the Student Honor Council, he or she will be dismissed from the Honors College for the semester in which the violation took place and for all subsequent semesters in which the student is enrolled as an undergraduate at Maryland.

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Late submissions without prior extension are graded down half a step per day.

Grades will be determined as follows: 20% class participation, including course blog; 20% short essay, 20% individual presentation, 40% final paper or project.

A+ 100 – 97

A 96.9 – 93

A- 92.9 – 90

B+ 89.9 – 87

B 86.9 – 83

B- 82.9 – 80

C+ 79.9 – 77

C 76.9 – 73

C- 72.9 – 70

D+ 69.9 – 67

D 66.9 – 63

D- 62.9 – 60

F Below 60

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