603-103-MQ, War, Peace and Propaganda: Literature of the Vietnam War
The American involvement in Vietnam (1961-1973), an undeclared war which it did not win, has given rise to a body of literature that explores the moral ambiguity of war from the point of view of the American soldier. Much of this literature portrays the U.S soldier in a variety of roles, from heroic G.I. to the troubled vet. Rather than focusing exclusively on the portrayal of the U.S. soldier, this course will place the war within the larger context of Vietnam’s struggle against colonialism by reading literature written not only by American writers but also by North and South Vietnamese writers. By listening to the voices from all sides, we will gain a clearer view of how the “truth” about the Vietnam war (known as the “American” war in Vietnam) cannot be represented through one authoritative voice. An examination of these literatures (poems, short stories, songs, essays and excerpts from novels) will allow us to explore the themes of patriotic self-sacrifice, of hatred and fear of the enemy, of victory and defeat, duty and guilt, themes shared by all: the U.S. soldier, the National Liberation Front (Viet Cong), the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), Vietnamese civilians, and voices from the American antiwar movement of the 1960’s. Our readings will include literature that represents the experiences and roles of Vietnamese women in the National Liberation Front and in the North Vietnamese army, through fiction and non-fiction written by these women combatants and doctors in the field, as well as essays by American women peace activists and nurses returning to post-war Vietnam. Most of these texts will show the participants in war alternately clinging to their ideals then cynically casting them aside when confronted with the loss of a sense of purpose in the face of the horrific realities of war.