HST6071: Life Stories: Men and Women in War and Revolution, 1936-1949
15 credits (Semester 2017-18: Autumn | Semester 2018-19: Autumn)
'During the 1930s and 40s the fabric of everyday life in Europe was fractured, at times seemingly beyond repair. This module examines ideological commitment, displacement, mobility and radical change, looking at how individual men and women responded to these changes and defined themselves in the face of them during the turbulent years of the mid-twentieth century. We'll look at the traces they left behind them, the diaries, letters, pictures and memoires that they wrote as well as the photographs that recorded them and the objects they took with them.' Professor Mary Vincent
This module will allow you to explore issues of identity and how these changed during the turbulent early years of the twentieth century, looking at how these identities are expressed. Each seminar is structured around a particular kind of 'ego-document': for example, diaries, memoires, interviews, and children’s drawings. Exploring and comparing these sources, which all come under the broad title of 'life-writing', allows us to examine consider how identities are negotiated in difficult, and often harsh, social and political circumstances. The module looks to locate the individual in the momentous history of mid-twentieth-century Europe, a time of massive dislocation and population movements as well as disruption to the normal course of everyday life.
By the end of the module, you will be able to demonstrate:
The module will be taught in five, two-hour classes. Each will focus on personal testimony, exploring particular themes such as the lived experience of men and women during specific periods of revolution and war; the relationship between identity and physicality; gender and class identities (LOs 1, 2). Such topics will also be located within a particular genre of life-writing, such as children's testimony (textual and visual), soldiers' letters, diaries and memoirs (LOs 2, 3). This is a field with a rich literature that draws from history, literary criticism, sociology and psychoanalysis. Classes will enable students to explore this interdisciplinarity (LO3), share knowledge and debate controversial issues (LO4) and listen and respond to the views of others in a structured environment (LOs 4, 5). You will, in addition, have individual tutorial contact with the module leader in order to discuss your written work for this module.
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You will prepare a short paper (not more than 3000 words) which demonstrates an ability to handle this type of primary source and use it to explore one of the key themes raised by an in-depth study of identity in this particular period of modern European history (LOs 1, 2, 3).
Among the best know and possibly most familiar examples of life-writing from the period are George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia (1938) and Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1952), both of which are well worth re-reading.
Richard Vinen, A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century (London, 2000), part II, discusses the period, Mary Fulbrook and Ulinka Rublack, 'In Relation: the "Social Self" and Ego-Documents', German History 28:3 (2010), 263-27, the methodology.
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