The importance of the Korean War continues in shaping both East Asia as we know it today and American foreign policy and culture in the latter half of the twentieth century can hardly be denied. Yet, the Korean War continues to be referred to as "the forgotten war" or "the unknown war," and remains the subject of much mystification more than half a century after the ceasefire. This course will focus on representations of the war in transnational literature as a way of moving beyond nationalist historiography and international relations paradigms that have dominated existing studies. Texts to be examined include fiction, poetry, and memoirs written by Koreans, Japanese, resident Koreans in Japan, African and Asian Americans, as well as veterans of the war in China and the U.S. Through these diverse texts, the course will explore the complex and far-reaching impact of the war not only on the two Koreas, but around the globe from China to South Africa. After developing a nuanced understanding of the forces that culminated in the war and in turn were unleashed by it, the discussion will shift to more theoretical topics including the relationship between violence and writing, war and racism, memory and mourning, official and unofficial narratives, gender and trauma, and truth and reconciliation. In addition to literary texts, readings will include archival material such as government documents, secondary articles on the history of the war, and analyses of cultural artifacts produced by the Cold War. We will also view one documentary and one feature film as intertexts. The larger aim of the course is to trace historical and aesthetic connections that situate the Korean War within spatiotemporal trajectories that extend far beyond the boundaries of the nation and the immediate war years.
Students will submit two papers. The first, 5-6 pages in length, will consist of a close reading of a single text or a single motif. The second, 9-10 pages in length, will examine one of the larger theoretical issues posed in the class by incorporating two to three texts. Eight quizzes will be given throughout the term to test students' familiarity with the reading assignments for the week. These quizzes are designed to help students keep abreast of the readings. In addition, students will be responsible for one in-class group presentation on some aspect of Korean War historiography. Attendance and active participation are mandatory and together count for 15% of the grade.
Primarily 3rd or 4th year undergraduates with good writing and analytical skills. In addition, students interested in East Asian literature, comparative literature, or contemporary American literature from a transnational and cultural studies perspective.
Class will meet twice a week. Except when students make presentations, each will be a lecture. Active participation from the students will be elicited and incorporated into the lecture. Depending on the nature of each class, 20-30 minutes of the class can be set aside for discussion.