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UO HUM 260 - Syllabus

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HUM 260 Postwar European Culture Spring Term 2012/ CRN 36324 Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00 – 11:20 AM/ 121 McKenzie Hall Professor George Sheridan [email protected] McKenzie Hall 541 346-4832 Office Hours: Tuesday, 3:45 – 5:00 PM in 359 McKenzie This course addresses the history of the European continent since 1945 in light of humanistic themes and texts reflecting upon various aspects of that history. The course approaches this subject through weekly readings that combine historical narrative with cultural readings by Europeans that have an especially literary, moral, and visionary quality. Prominent among these are works of fiction (novels) and autobiographical testimony. The course makes a special effort to address the different experiences of eastern and western Europe and Europeans. The chronological focus is postwar Europe, that is, Europe since 1945. Some topics and readings extend back into the period immediately preceding 1945, notably that of World War II. METHOD OF THE COURSE The two classes each week will address the history of a particular time period through readings in Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt and through some lectures. In addition, for each week there is a cultural reading intended to elicit reflections on that period or on some theme relevant to that period. Usually these are readings written by participants who lived or published at or around the time being considered. For some of the longer cultural readings, such as the novel by Albert Camus, The Plague, the reading is spread over several weeks. The combination of historical and cultural readings provides material for class discussion which will normally take place on Thursday of each week. Students are responsible on exams for class content – discussions and lectures – in addition to the assigned weekly readings. Class attendance and participation are therefore essential to earning a good grade in the course. In addition to class attendance and participation, several different written assignments are required based on independent work outside of class. There are two kinds of written assignments: reflection papers and course papers. Reflection papers provide short reflections (1- 2 pages) on a specified topic using relevant readings and, in one instance, viewing of a film. These are not intended as formal papers and therefore do not require footnoting or citation as in a formal paper, but they must demonstrate independent thinking about a topic and use of the relevant reading or film in doing so. There are two course papers. Unlike reflection papers, these are formal papers and must be carefully constructed and written with appropriate citation. Details concerning each paper are provided in the next section.There are also two examinations: a mid-term exam (May 3) and a final exam (June 11, 8:00 AM). On both examinations, a section will be devoted to one of the major cultural readings. The remainder of the exam will focus on the historical content, including specified readings from Judt, lecture presentations, and, in some instances, source readings relevant to a particular historical theme. Prior to each exam a study guide will be posted on the Blackboard site for the course. COURSE PAPERS You will write two course papers, each 5-7 pages (12-point type double spaced) in length (1500-2100 words). Topics and books to be used for each paper are described below. Your essay should demonstrate a careful reading of the book and should reference points made in the book in both general terms and with illustrative detail. Base your paper exclusively on the specified book or books; only use other material from the course (assigned readings, lectures) for occasional facts and points of reference for the topic. You may address the topic for the book as a whole or for particular themes or sections of the book, as long as these demonstrate your immersion in the entire book. DO NOT MERELY SUMMARIZE THE BOOK OR THE STORY IN THE BOOK. Due dates for each paper are given below and on the syllabus of weekly topics and readings. First Paper: Due Thursday, May 10 For this paper you have a choice of one of the following: 1. A paper on Holocaust testimony based on Primo Levi, The Drowned and the Saved (entire book, not only chapters assigned for week 1). The paper should address one of the following themes as suggested by the reading: • Identity – individual or collective or both. Examples include: individual identity of Jews before and after imprisonment in camps, identity of camp prisoners vs. camp staff, identity of Jewish prisoners chosen to work on the camp staff. • Human nature and the human condition. Examples include: human behavior and morality in extreme situations, the strength or the weakness of belief (religious, humanist, scientific, etc) in situations of the kind depicted in the reading. • Memory. In what ways does the reading manifest the complexities of memory and remembering? For this focus you may use Tony Judt’s “From the House of the Dead” (pp. 803-831) for reference, as long as the main part of your paper uses the Primo Levi testimony. 22. A paper on Albert Camus’ novel The Plague. This may take any approach to discussion or analysis of the novel, except that a summary or re-telling of the story of the novel is not acceptable. Suggested themes for this topic are: • Human nature and the human condition. Examples include: human behavior, morality, the strength or the weakness of belief (religious, humanist, scientific, etc) in extreme situations such as those depicted in the novel • The dialogue between religion, or religious belief, and science as portrayed in characters, scenes, dialogues, and/or the narrator’s commentaries and observations • Existentialism in the novel: is the novel existentialist or not? Why or why not, and what sense? Elaborate with references to characters, scenes, and the like. For this topic, you may use Sartre’s “Introducing Les Temps Modernes” to articulate particular aspects or themes of existentialism that are present in the novel. • Setting of the novel: use description of places and references to everyday life in the city of Oran, habits and attitudes of characters, and examples from dialogues and conversations to situate the novel in its historical setting. In other words, using only the material of this novel, what was “life like” at the time and place


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