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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program
Course Description

The Good War? World War 2 in Literature, Film and Art

Instructor(s): Daniel Swift

The history of the Second World War is far from settled. From Studs Terkel's oral history The Good War (1984) to Steven Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan (1998) and Ken Burns' 2007 documentary The War, new stories of the war continue to be told, and as with the recent disagreement between the film-makers Spike Lee and Clint Eastwood over the portrayal of African-American soldiers in Hollywood movies, they continue to inspire debate. Students will examine the Second World War from a range of different perspectives; we will think as historians, as literary critics, as moviegoers, and as journalists. Students will read political speeches about the war as well as novels and poetry. Students will analyze the photographs of Robert Capa and Margaret Bourke-White alongside journalism and memoirs. Students will also watch training and recruitment films produced by the American and British governments. At all times, students will consider what can be learned from approaching a historical event from multiple viewpoints. The 1939 Hollywood melodrama Gone with the Wind, for example, was the favorite movie of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's minister for propaganda, and also played to packed audiences in London throughout the Blitz.

Course Offered