by I.A. Isherwood
Next week begins a new semester. In a few minutes I am going to email the syllabus of my new First World War class. As we are now in the second year of the war’s centenary, a survey class on the war’s conduct and impact is important, I think. So here it goes . . .
So what will we be doing? We are examining the causes, military history, and cultural legacy of the conflict. Rather than being a strictly ’causes, conduct, and consequences class’ (note: I have absolutely no issue with this approach but I want to try something different), weeks are structured more thematically to hopefully engage with the way current historians conceptualize the war. What this means in practical terms is that we’ll have a weeks on ‘destruction, violence, and death’, ‘social impact’, ‘post-war disorder and war memories’ in addition to weeks on causality, strategy, and conduct. Two full weeks will be devoted to the war’s lasting legacy.
Related to the title of this blog, three weeks will be devoted to national narratives of war, where students will read a classic ‘war book’ and we will discuss the work in the context of national identity. I am using Barbusse (Under Fire), Sassoon (Memoirs of an Infantry Officer), and Jünger (Storm of Steel). In future years, I hope to mix things up, but this year I wanted to teach these titles.
I am not sure what I want from this blog. I hope to use this as a type of war diary or ship’s log, where the class can be documented, and where we can have discussions about what we are doing. My students have heard me drone on and on about the liberal arts classroom and its value, etc.,etc. Rather than just talking about it, I hope this blog can show some of the good work we do in the classroom.