Roaring Twenties, Nazi Terrors and the Cold War: European Experiences reflected in Literature
Full course description
The course invites students on an exciting literary and historical journey that takes them out of the trenches of Word War I into the European ‘Roaring’ Twenties, with Fascism rising in several countries, culminating in Hitler’s Nazi party gaining power in 1933, to the battle fields of World War II; and the ‘Road to Freedom’ from the beaches of Normandy to the Ardennes in Belgium, and further on into the Cold War with its absurdities and the shadows of the past still lingering.
Meant as an introduction to literary and cultural history, but also as a course about American-European relations in the 20th century, the class is connecting the art of writing with a chain of events in the 20th century that shaped the relation between the two continents up to this day.
The chosen texts for this class have an authentic view on cultural and political history in Europe. Written by important authors of the 20th century, they reflect in fiction or journalistic on-site depiction the turbulent life and times in Europe over a period of more than 60 years. Starting with the famous and highly influential American Expatriate Community in Paris in the 1920s, the class discussion will move to the politically unruly 1930s in Berlin and Germany. The resulting World War II will be discussed with Hemingway and his generation giving eye witness accounts from the battle fields, concentration on the period from the D-day landing in Normandy (June 6, 1944), to the following liberation of Paris (August 1944), culminating in the bloody battles in The Netherlands and Belgium (fall 1944 till early 1945) and succeeding with American troops reaching the Rhineland and Cologne (spring 1945). The last chapter of the class discussion will be devoted to the aftermath of Nazi terrors and the contradictions of living under Cold War conditions.
The class is committed to an open, informal but passionate discussion based on the reading of texts, watching movies and an excursion to sites connected with the topics of this seminar. Each meeting is focusing on the analyses of texts related to certain times, places and events. Developments will be discussed together with comparing authors and their way of depicting things. T
he class comes with a day-long academic field trip to various WWII sites related to the famous Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes, Belgium that gives students the change to experience and see some of the topics discussed in class.
This course consists of 32 class hours divided over 7-8 weeks. Students earn 6 ECTS credits when they obtain a passing grade. Students who need more credits can sign up for the extended course format, which includes an Independent Study Project (ISP) worth an additional 3 ECTS. The maximum number of credits that can be obtained is 9 ECTS.
This class is a Core Course for students in the European History, Culture & Arts programme.
The aim of this course is to:
• Give students a thorough insight into European history, culture and experiences, from the 1920s until the beginning of the 1980s.
• Acquaint students with artistic movements, philosophical and cultural ideas as well as with techniques of depicting reality in literary texts.
• Students will learn about methods of literary criticism and get experience in analyzing fictional texts, with or without biographical contents.
General interest in literature and European Studies.
A minimum of 7 students is needed for the course to take place.
Students will read (parts of) the following books:
▪ Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
▪ Sylvia Beach, Shakespeare & Company
▪ Gertrude Stein, The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas
▪ Philippe Soupault, Last Nights of Paris
▪ Ernest Hemingway, The Sun also Rises
▪ Christopher Isherwood, The Last of Mr. Norris
▪ Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t Go Home Again
▪ Reader, WWII articles
▪ Harry Mulisch, The Assault
▪ Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night.
The following movies will be shown / are available on loan:
▪ The Sun Also Rises (1957) [optional]
• Mother Night (1997) [optional]
• The War – Ken Burns (PBS documentary) [optional]
• Cabaret (1972) [in class]
• Midnight in Paris (2011) [in class]
All books and texts will be available at the CES on loan.
- K.U. Syndram