War and Mediation: the U.S.-Vietnam War in History, Film and Story

History 103D.002

Spring 2006
Instructor (text): 
2303 Dwinelle
Day & Time: 
W 2-4

The U.S.-Vietnam War took place over a long span of time (1945-1975) and over two continents divided by the Pacific Ocean. We will study the history and historical interpretations of those events. But they came into the awareness of the American public via many and complex routes from contemporary reports to the present. Press reports, TV coverage and documentaries, historical surveys, and, in the aftermath, fiction and film have all helped construct that war in our modern consciousness. We will study this mediation by focusing primarily on film representations relating to Vietnam, using fiction, oral histories, TV documentaries, and historical analyses to provide context for our understanding of the films. We will devote one of our weekly meetings to a film showing, the subsequent meeting the next week to discussion and,where relevant, TV documentary presentation based on that experience and our related readings. Our final weeks will take up Francis Ford Coppola's stupendous 1979 film, newly revised and released as Apocalypse Now Redux.

Texts will include: Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars, Michael Herr, Dispatches,Eric Bergerud, Red Thunder, Tropic Lightning: The World of a Combat Division in Vietnam, Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness.

Possible films are: The Ugly American (1962) and The Battle of Algiers (1967,The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Heaven and Earth, We Were Soldiers. For Apocalypse Now Redux seminar members need to be familiar with Joseph Conrad's novella, Heart of Darkness, which underlies Coppola's film.

Requirements: Attendance at all meetings is essential. If you must miss a meeting because of personal or medical exigencies please let me know beforehand: missed sessions will require make-up work.

1. A short written reaction and report (approx 3 pages each) on each of the assigned texts, due as we proceed, and
2. A reflective synthesizing paper (or paper/review on specific topic of your interest) due at end of session, 6-8 pages, items 1 and 2 together to total the equivalent of approximately 20 pages of written work.
3. I may ask specific class members to volunteer for a short verbal report on certain subjects or matters of their particular interest or specialty. Adjustments will be made in other assignments for those who give reports--experience has shown the class agenda is often sufficiently full and animated.
4. After each in-class movie a short e-mail response, (specific scenes, overall quality, agendas of film, questions raised, etc.) to the class e-mail list for use in our discussion.