The Greek philosopher Heraclitus described war as "the father and king of us all"; Sun Tzu wrote that understanding war is a matter of life and death; Machiavelli thought war to be the core element of all politics, and von Clausewitz defined it as an extension of politics by other means. Virtually every human being on Earth has had some contact with war, either by participating in it, or by feeling its effects in one's family history or national history and identity. Yet, war as such is rarely addressed as a topic for reflection outside of military academies. Generally speaking, this class intends to expose students to basic concepts in military history and philosophy, and to encourage them to think critically and in an informed fashion upon the topic of war.
War as a Cultural Phenomenon approaches its topic from a vast variety of perspectives, ranging from military theory and history of warfare to representations of war in fiction, descriptions of war experiences in personal memoires, and dynamic models of conflict. In particular, War as a Cultural Phenomenon embraces the recent turn in military history from the search for general patterns to a nuanced understanding of war as an ever changing expression of time and place - one which is shaped by culture as much it shapes culture in return. Different cultures do conceptualize, wage, and describe war in radically different ways. This class explores examples of such conceptions of war in their interaction with culture, society, and technology.
This class will allow Freshmen of IU to become familiar with many incarnations of war philophy and practice through a selection of texts from the fifth century BCE to the present. The class includes excerpts of key treatises on war, essays on the logistical, economic, and technological aspects of war, as well as memoires and works of fiction that describe the experience of war. We will also make ample use of tactical and operational maps to gain insights about the spatial dynamics of war. We will also discuss how historical events are constructed in specific narratives to fit the needs of the culture for which they are produced.
The class includes a visit to the main library to allow students to familiarize themselves with the research resources of our campus; a visit to the Lilly Library to see some unique war-related artifacts; a visit to the Kinsey Institute to see several examples of erotic art and propaganda related to military culture.
The nature of the topic is meant to stimulate students to engage with the class at a deep level. Controversial aspects of military history and culture should encourage students to elaborate personal interpretations, as there are no easy and ready-made answers to the challenges of war.
GenEd Information: Currently approved for the IU Bloomington GenEd AH requirement. See the GenEd Website for more information.
Catalog Information: COLL-S 103 FRESHMAN SEMINAR IN A & H