Literature and War - Dr. James Moyer
(Literature and War (Fall 2017))

Literature and War - Dr. James Moyer


Fall 2017 M 1-3:50 pm

War has always been a dominant theme in literary expression. It is the occasion, setting, or subject matter of many classic texts—such as the Iliad and Odyssey—that are seen as foundational to Western civilization. Yet a key idea about war from a modernist view is its inexpressibility—its being too terrible, too traumatic, or too devastating to convey. We will explore this central paradox of war literature. How do we speak the unspeakable? What strategies do writers use to express the idea that war cannot be expressed? We will examine the great allure of war as a literary subject (if not as an activity of our species), both for celebrants of war and its critics. What role do poems and songs have in bolstering a war cause? Does war need art, music, and literature to sustain its allure? What role do poems and songs have in undermining support for a war, or war in general? Do literature and war go all too happily together? Should they be thought of as profoundly at odds, the opposite capacities of human beings to create and destroy? Reading works as varied as Troilus and Cressida, poetry by “the war poets,” and Catch-22, will help us confront such questions.