HISTORY 397 - History Colloquium
Section: 101 WWII and the Politics of Memory in Europe
Term: SP 2009
Subject: History (HISTORY)
Department: LSA History
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Enrollment limited to junior and senior History majors by permission only. History majors are required to elect HISTORY 396 or 397.
May be repeated for a maximum of 8 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:

As one historian recently commented, “‘Remembering’ World War II requires no immediate experience of those years.” Indeed, in the years during and after the war, European countries were developing their own conceptions of what the war meant, which parts were to be canonized within a narrative of national histories, and which parts were to be ignored, excised or otherwise removed from popular memory. This course examines European cultural production – literature, cinema, the visual arts, along with the production of History itself – on the topic of World War II. We attempt to grapple with the “drama” of the Second World War as it played out in Europe after the war itself ended. This course is broadly comparative, touching upon a multitude of national narrative of the war, but focusing on four countries: Britain, France, Germany, and the Soviet Union.

We look at how the production of memory in each of these countries dealt with their own unique set of problems in making sense of the war and its aftermath. Britain promoted the notion of a “people’s war,” smugly confident in its country’s role as leading the Allied fight against Nazism; France highlighted the resistance movement, while dealing uncomfortably with the Vichy past; West Germany portrayed themselves as victims of Soviet aggression; and the Soviet Union highlighted their ultimate sacrifice of 20-30 million dead, and claimed the final victory of socialism over fascism. World War II became a central moment in each country’s identity, but representations of the war did not remain unchanged.

Through weekly readings in secondary literature on this topic, in addition to frequent film screenings and the examination of other primary source documents, we address how European countries dealt with the topic of violence and suffering; the relationship between war and entertainment; how representations of the war changed over time, and what these changes indicate about the cultural, social and political climate in each country.

Students are expected to participate actively in discussion, in addition to writing short response papers in preparation for each meeting, and a longer paper (10-12 pages) due at the end of the term.

Required Books:

  • Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France Since 1944 (Harvard UP, 2006)
  • Jennifer M. Kapczynski, The German Patient: Crisis and Recovery in Postwar Culture (U Mich Press, 2008)
  • Vasily Grossman, Life and Fate (Vintage Classics, 2006)
  • Alistair Maclean, The Guns of Navarone (any version, 1957)

HISTORY 397 - History Colloquium
Schedule Listing
101 (SEM)
6LSA Hist Majors- Jr or Sr Only
13LSA Jr>
TuTh 1:00PM - 4:00PM
Note: All sections of 397 are restricted to Jr. and/or Sr. standing.
NOTE: Data maintained by department in Wolverine Access. If no textbooks are listed below, check with the department.

ISBN: 9780674935396
Vichy syndrome : history and memory in France since 1944 1994
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 9780472070527
The German patient : crisis and recovery in postwar culture, Author: Kapczynski, Jennifer M., 1972-, Publisher: University of Michigan Press 2008
ISBN: 9780002712071
Life and fate., Author: Grossman, Vasily., Publisher: Harvill Harpercollins 1995
Other Textbook Editions OK.
ISBN: 9781568493060
Guns of navarone., Author: Maclean, Alistair, 1922-, Publisher: Buccaneer 1994
Other Textbook Editions OK.
Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

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