COMP 224
Remembering the Great War: The First World War in Literature and Film Fall 2023
Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed RLFR 225

Class Details

From 1914 to 1918, the First World War ravaged Europe and slaughtered millions of soldiers and civilians from across the globe. Known as the “war to end (all) war(s),” World War I set the stage for an entire century of military conflict and carnage. New technologies led to unprecedented violence in the trenches, killing and wounding as many as 41 million soldiers and civilians. Beyond the slaughter at the front, the Great War also led to the global influenza pandemic that claimed up to 50 million lives, and the Armenian genocide that presaged the later atrocities of the Holocaust. The war also led to massive political transformation, from the Irish Rebellion and Russian Revolution, to the collapse of the German, Russian, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman Empires, and the redrawing of national borders across Europe and the Middle East. Even the end of the war with the Treaty of Versailles lay the groundwork for new animosities that would lead to the Second World War just two decades later. However, the First World War also inspired great social change, from the emergence of the United States as a global leader and the founding of the League of Nations, to growing discontent with colonial rule in Asia and Africa, and greater power for women whose wartime labor influenced the post-war passage of their right to vote in countries across Europe and North America. In our study of the Great War, we will examine texts and films that bear witness to the suffering and courage of soldiers and civilians, and consider the legacy of the war in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries. Readings to include memoirs and novels by Barbusse, Barker, Brittain, Cocteau, Graves, Hemingway, J√ľnger, Remarque, Wharton, Woolf; poetry by Apollinaire, Brooke, Mackintosh, McCrae, Owen, Sassoon; films by Attenborough, Boyd, Carion, Chaplin, Jeunet, Ozon, Renoir, Trumbo, Walsh, Weir; and archival materials on the roles of Williams students and faculty during the First World War. Readings and Discussions in English.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 16
Expected: 16
Class#: 1550
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Active class participation, two shorter papers (4-5 pages), a midterm, and a longer final paper (5-7 pages).
Prerequisites: None.
Enrollment Preferences: All are welcome, but if the course is overenrolled, preference will be given to Comparative Literature majors and French majors and certificate students; if the course is over-enrolled, students will submit a form online.
Distributions: Division I Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
RLFR 225 Division I COMP 224 Division I
DPE Notes: As the course description explains, this course centers on a critical examination of difference, power, and equity during WWI. The content examines the effects of class, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality on social inequalities among soldiers & civilians, nations & colonies, men & women. The course also employs critical tools to teach students how to articulate and interrogate the social injustices of the Great War, from reading & discussion, to analytical essays & archival investigation.

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