JINS 369: Why We Fight: War, Politics, and Literature

Dr. John J. Quinn
Why We Fight: War, Politics, and Literature
JINS 369
Office: McClain 206D x4578

Required Texts                      Assignments and Grading

War has been around since the beginning of civilization.  Depending how you define war, some say longerThis course explores the themes and ideas of war from a political science perspective, a historical perspective, and a literary perspectiveWe will overview theoretical causes or war, some major ancient wars which created empires or classic views of war, overview the major wars in which the United States, overview how technologies and strategies of war (also for context) have changed over time, and explore the changing way the war has been portrayed throughout the ages, especially in works of fiction, poetry, historic narrative, and autobiography.  However, the emphasis of the class will become the lived (actual) and/ or portrayed experience of war and soldiers through various mediaAlthough wars throughout the ages will be referenced and discussed, the primary emphasis will be upon wars with American involvementWe will also examine archetypes of portrayals of war and see how different authors use these archetypes (or not) to portray their imagesFinally, in our analysis of several books and poems, the primary focus of war will shift to front line soldier and their experience, within the context of the technology of war and prevailing tactics and strategies However, different semesters may emphasize some aspects more than others and different sources will emphasize different themesAll should build to understanding causes of war, technologies or war, and the effect of war on individuals experiencing it.

Required texts:

Books available at Truman Book Store: 

Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (Civil War)

Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front (World War I)

Sledge, With the Old Breed (World War II)

Caputo, A Rumor of War (Vietnam War)

Reader: “Faces of War” and other readings available on Brightspace.  


Assignments and Grading

Three take home essays 15% x 3 (45%), a final project 25% (but with 5% for a rough draft earlier in the semester) [so 30%], quizzes 15%, and class participation 10%.  The quizzes will be online, and they based upon lectures, PowerPoints and assigned readings.  Quizzes will open Friday evening, and students will have the weekend to take them, but once the quiz is opened, there are only 12 minutes to complete them.  Therefore, review and study for the quizzes before taking them.  Once they are opened, you only have those 12 minutes. The average score of all the quizzes will be combined for 15%.  I will post them every Friday to be completed before the next Monday before class.  They will test over material already presented in class.  You may use notes, but not PowerPoints directly.  You will likely be kicked off by the server if you open other windows.  Participation scores will reflect arriving ready to discuss readings, participating in reading and discussion in the class.  In addition, when we discuss the novels/ books in class, I will pay particular attention to who participates on those days.   

Three Take Home Tests/Essays: (readings/research based)

There are three short papers that are to be 7 – 10 (seven to ten) pages in length, not counting bibliography (so yes, you have to cite sources in text as well as at the end).  For each of the essays, address the question or premise of the essay as best you can with support from the slides, lectures, readings or books.  Evidence here means finding examples or quotes from the readings or texts which support the point you are making.  Please follow the APA (preferred), MLA, or APSA writing styles for each of the essays, and especially for the final paper.  Poor writing and many grammar and spelling errors and usage errors can reduce the grade.  Also, citations from Faces of War reader should start with the author or the included piece, and then the title of the piece, then “Faces of War Reader”, and then the page number of Bibliography, for inline, author, year (and page if any).  [If it is a classic reference (like the bible or Shakespeare), ignore year.] Do not cite me, unless you are quoting one or my books or articles (which is unlikely for this class). 

Essay 1: In Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, the narrator says: “[Henry Fleming] had looked upon the war in his own country with distrust. It must be some sort of a “play affair.” He had long despaired of witnessing a Greek like struggle… “[H]e had burned several times to enlist. Tales of great movements shook the land. They might not be distinctly Homeric, but there seemed to be much glory in them. He had read of marches, sieges, conflicts, and he had longed to see it all.”  The narrator, of course, speaks of a certain time in history. As the novel plays out, what discoveries does Henry make about himself that might go counter to the heroic ideal of those involved in war? What did he learn about war that did not line up with classical portrayals?  To answer these questions, make sure you show to the reader that you understand what the heroic ideals of war and heroism look like.   

As you read the novel, research “Homeric” or “Homeric views of heroism” to gain background for your discussion. ON BRIGHTSPACE, UNDER “LITERARY WORKS and Faces of War Reader,” You will find appropriate texts from the bible and primary classical texts.  Support your comments with specific references and illustrative quotes from the novel and texts as well as the sources you discovered and use to illustrate the classical views of the good traits of a soldier or hero.  [When citing materials from blackboard, write the author’s name or source name, and the title of the source.  The reader can be cited as the source after prior information given.  Just citing the reader, and not what is in it, is too vague.  Also, do not cite me! I did not write any of this stuff.]   

Essay 2: Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front and Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage are two classic, realistic war novels. Indeed, taken together, they have influenced writers of war novels throughout the twentieth century. Please think about the archetypes we discussed, lectured, and read about and try to apply them appropriately to help explain the novel.  However, in these works, several “archetypes” are clear (e.g., the patriotic martinet, the blustering commander, guides or mentors, the callow youth, comradeship, women (especially the mother figure), noble birth, low birth, special skills, threshold guardian, hero, courage, cowardice, to name a few – you will probably discover others including the use of colors).  Were these created by the two novelists, or can you find (and show that you have found) similar ones in past literary and historical writing? [Please look on Blackboard, under literary works, and you will find selection that will assist you in completing this assignment. (e.g., Xenophon, Shakespeare, Campbell, et alia) You may selection from these to make your point.  Please use specific citations or references, even direct quotes where appropriate to make you points.  The reader, also has materials you can use to draw on.  There is also material about archetypes available on blackboard.  

So try to identify many key archetypes found within these two works and try to show how they reflect prior (classical ones) as well as how they are used or changed with the realist texts.   

Essay 3: Ernest Hemingway, one of those authors deeply influenced by Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage, once said, 1) “War is the one enterprise where all the virtues and vices of humanity may be seen.” How do you see Hemingway’s comment manifested in Remark’s, All Quiet on the Western Front, Sledge’s With the Old Breed? and Caputo’s Rumor of War.  What examples or evidence from the text illustrate the heights and depths of humanity as met in war?  [Support your comments with specific quotes and examples from the text (Give page numbers and use quotes around the cited part.)]  Tie to previous discussion in class or slides as well as other readings in class.  Also, for your conclusion, answer these questions:  Do you agree that war is indeed the place where all the vices and virtues of humanity are seen?  Cite specific examples and explain how they support your argument.  

Deductions will be made for late papers (2 % points for each late business day).  Turn them in printed in class, or if no other choice, upload them to blackboard or e-mail them to me.  They might be checked for plagiarism as well.  

FINAL PROJECT: Choose one of America’s major wars (or with permission another great war) and put together an essay/paper which includes the following items:  

Part 1: Choose a major American war (one in which America played a significant role (or another major war with great powers with the professor’s approval), and give a historical/ political science explanation of why the war began, who was involved, what were the war objectives, and were these objective obtained (by the major combatants).  This will require some research and thinking along the lines discussed in lecture (like balance or power, security dilemma, political objectives).  Including the following items: 1) When was the war and who were the major players/ combatants in the war?  Which countries were on which side (if more than one country one each side any why. 2) What were the goals of these countries for the war (as understood at the time)?  What were the main causes of the war?  Use sources and citations for your research (for this as well as following sections).  [This part draws on political science/history for analysis] 

[This part will be turned in on class 12 so students can get feedback on this and practice writing such a paper.  So turn in part 1, and then revise and then turn in again as part of final project.]   

Part 2: Then, for the same war, add a literary section that analyses a book, a movie, and a poem (or a song) about this war.  The book can be either real or fictional (a novel is fictional), but it must portray the war from the soldiers’ experience, and, if fiction, it has to be realistic (not science fiction!).  [The prior three essays should help you write this next part of the project.]  Analyze each one (book, movie, poem) using one (or more) of the approaches used in the first three essays.  Also, locate the film/ book / poems songs as 1) a work of art, 2) a work of propaganda, 3) works of realism, or 4) some combination of above.  Make sure you discuss the point of view of the work, setting, main characters and main plotline.  [In an appendix, include a copy of the poem or song analyzed. [the words of the song or poem]] [This part is literary analysis] 

Thus, this final project should link together the official reasons for fighting the war (at the country level) to the perspectives of wars from a soldier’s perspective through the book, poetry, and film.   Make sure to address the question of why we fought that war from each perspective.  [Thus, link the country perspective and the society’s or soldiers’ perspective in the project.]  In this final essay, we should have elements of political science, history, and literature as part of the whole.