Course # 01:090:296:H3
Index # 06619
Wednesday 8:30 AM - 11:30 AM (1,2)
Campus: Livingston
Location: TIL-105
Nancy Martin (Writing Program)


In the Iliad, perhaps the greatest war story ever told, Homer writes: “How can I picture it all? It would take a god to tell the tale.” War is profoundly difficult to convey. It reconfigures nations, separates families, destroys landscapes, and kills in terrifying numbers. These extreme conditions pose a significant challenge to men and women’s ability to communicate—whether soldier, civilian, nurse, or grieving parent. And yet, telling stories of war can be therapeutic for survivors. These stories can also function in honoring the dead and perhaps, as many believe, even promote a future peace. In this honors seminar, we will consider how modern wars are represented across a range of textual and visual media, from diaries and letters, to fiction and poetry, to video games and films. Drawing together the fields of literary studies, gender studies, history, and cognitive psychology, we will ask such questions as: what are the potential therapeutic functions of writing in war? How have conceptions of heroism changed? How are wars (both past and present) framed in political discourse? Is it ethical to depict war for the purposes of entertainment? How and why are traditional conceptions of gender both reasserted and broken down in war? Whose contributions to war have been omitted from the historical record and why?

Drawing on current research in cognitive psychology and trauma theory, we will begin by examining the poetry and private writing of soldiers and nurses (WWI & II), assessing how individuals represent war’s realities while still in the midst of its chaos. Next, we will study how war is depicted politically, socially, and culturally by examining various presidential speeches, television series (Downton Abby, Band of Brothers), films (Full Metal Jacket, Dunkirk), and videogames (Call of Duty). The final portion of the class will consider the therapeutic functions of contemporary veteran art—songs, paintings, sculptures, and stories (NJ, NYC, Chicago).


About Nancy Martin 

Dr. Nancy Martin is a Teaching Instructor in the Rutgers Writing Program. Originally from Canada, she received her PhD in English from the University of Oxford in 2017, where she was also research coordinator of the university’s national First World War digitization project. Her research interests focus primarily on British war literature and life-writing, the languages of trauma and testimony, therapeutic writing, and theories of gender, sexuality, and identity. In particular, she is interested in the role of composition in extreme and traumatic circumstances, how the act of writing itself—imposing narrative order on chaotic experience—functions in creating, securing, and repairing one’s multiple identities in war, be it a father, a soldier, a mother, or a nurse. Her work has been published in several edited collections and journals, including  Textual Practice and the  Journal of International Women’s Studies.  


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