HIST 18
Kurt Vonnegut in History Winter 2020

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Class Details

Kurt Vonnegut, an Indiana native and former General Electric employee, rose to international prominence during the second half of the twentieth century as a cult novelist, anti-war activist, socialist, and humanist. Readers from seemingly disparate parts of a divided world–from prairie towns in the American midwest to university halls in the Soviet Union to smokey caf├ęs in de Gaulle’s Paris–developed a voracious appetite for cult classics like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle, and Breakfast of Champions. What explains Vonnegut’s appeal both past and present? In what ways did his views on free speech, technology, war, nuclear weapons, gender, human rights, labor, the environment, and the flaws of humankind reflect or subvert the norms of the postwar and cold war worlds. This course explores Kurt Vonnegut’s place in the postwar world as a novelist, thinker, and celebrity. In addition to reading works from the Kurt Vonnegut canon, we will read newspaper articles and literary criticism, watch a film and a handful of interview clips, to examine both the world that Vonnegut created and the world that created him.
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 30
Grading: pass/fail only
Requirements/Evaluation: short paper and final project or presentation
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: seniors and juniors have priority
Materials/Lab Fee: $10 and approximately $50 for books

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