The Arts of Civil War

Autumn 2018-2019

24170

Brandon Truett

What aesthetic strategies do art and literature employ to represent civil war in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries? In order to propose some answers, this comparative course traverses a wide range of cultural and historical contexts, moving chronologically through civil wars and revolutions in the United States, Russia, Spain, Ireland, Vietnam, Lebanon, and Syria. In doing so, we will query current debates around the relation between aesthetics and politics in critical theory, as well as pressing questions of human rights, citizenship, exile, refugee crisis, national sovereignty, and international humanitarianism. In addition to encountering artists and writers who work in a variety of different media (poetry, novels, visual art, film, etc.), we will read recent work by political theorists, philosophers, art historians, and literary critics. We will examine artists and writers such as Walt Whitman, El Lissitzky, Pablo Picasso, Etel Adnan, Lan Cao, Colm Toíbín, Claudia Rankine, Mounira Al Solh, and Ghayath Almadhoun, as well as the theoretical writings of Hannah Arendt, Michel Foucault, Susan Sontag, and Giorgio Agamben. Our primary task will be to investigate the dynamic ways in which art theorizes civil war. (Fiction, Poetry, Theory)