LA 197 Mass Death and National Monuments

LA 197 Mass Death and National Monuments: the 2018 Washington D.C. Memorial to World War One in Comparative Perspective (1 cr) Honors / Ethics Course for Spring 19

Instructor: John Horne, Paterno Fellow Visiting Scholar from Trinity College, Dublin

Extended war with large-scale death is not a modern phenomenon. However, when such wars are fought by the “people” (as opposed to rulers and elites), “the people” are deemed to have made the key sacrifice. Questions of how to commemorate the war dead, given the losses, become central (famously expressed in the case of the American Civil War by Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address). The answers take many forms – political rhetoric, socio-political reforms, public rituals, veterans’ movements – but monuments symbolising the sacrifice are key. How they are proposed and built, who supports or opposes them, what form do they take aesthetically, and how does what is said at their inaugurations (or later) reflect victory or defeat, the scale of the loss and the status of the dead (men, women, soldiers, civilians). We shall examine the US National Memorial to World War One in Washington, DC, scheduled to be inaugurated in November 2018. We shall ask why it took a hundred years for such a memorial to be created when monuments had already been erected in the nation’s capital to honour US involvement in the other major wars of the 20th century. We shall study the creation and meaning of the memorial in its American and international contexts, using multiple disciplines (history, cultural studies, art and architectural history, anthropology, etc.). We shall visit Washington in order to study the monument and compare it to other war memorials in the capital, notably those to World War Two, Korea and Vietnam.

Class Meeting Times: 5-6:30pm Thursday, Feb 7, 14, 21, 28 PLUS Tuesday, Feb 19, and an all-day trip to Washington, DC, on Saturday, Feb 23. Class attendance is mandatory. If you must miss class or this trip, do not enroll in this course.

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