World War One: Society, Culture, and Catastrophe
65 4th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11217
World War One produced a kind of horrific wonder. Massive in scale, powered by the tools of industrial progress, predicated on economic and colonial foundations, and generative of unprecedented levels of destruction, the war spurred a seismic shift in cultural, political, and aesthetic forms. At its outset, intellectuals like Max Weber declared the war “wunderbar.” At its end, Europe, as both physical reality and political ideal, was nearly unrecognizable. This course will trace the impact of “the war to end all wars” on modern subjectivity, social thought, and cultural production. How did the first World War set the stage for the coming century of new forms in culture, politics, society and beyond?
In this class, we’ll examine the war and its implications through the experience of soldiers, civilians, and artists, and in particular, the ways in which they understood the war as a cultural and political turning point into the unstable terrain of modernity. The unanticipated horrors of prolonged industrial warfare offered a new material basis upon which to challenge prevailing notions of nationalism, heroism, and citizenship in particular, and narratives of Western civilizational progress in general. Drawing on a mix of essays, literature, and classic and contemporary studies, readings for this class offer glimpses into how the war experience was understood and assimilated (or not) by the inter-war generation. We will read selections from authors including Rosa Luxemburg, Walter Benjamin, Erich Maria Remarque, Robert Graves, Avigdor Hameiri, Paul Fussell, and George Mosse.
Course ScheduleThursday, 6:30-9:30pm
March 07 — March 28, 2019