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CLS 250 — The End of Innocence: World War I in Literature, Painting, and Film

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Tuesdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jan 11—Mar 15
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Jan 13
Units: 2
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $485
Instructor(s): Nicholas Jenkins
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Jan 11—Mar 15
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jan 13
2 Units
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Nicholas Jenkins
Registration opens Nov 29, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
"The War is such a tremendous landmark that locally it imposes itself upon our computations of time like the birth of Christ,” wrote the contemporary author and painter Wyndham Lewis about the global war of 1914–1918. He continued: “We say ‘pre-war’ and ‘post-war,’ rather as we say BC or AD.” Now we are more than 100 years on from that “tremendous landmark.” And yet, because the apocalyptic battles of the conflict marked the moment when the nature of modern, industrialized warfare began to show itself fully, the war remains eerily close to us.

World War I was a moment that posed profound new challenges to artistic expression. In this course, we will look back to study some of the most important artistic responses to this epic war. Rather than aspiring to an impossible overview of so massive, lengthy, and globalized a conflict, we will focus closely on a few representative literary texts, including works by participants on both sides. We will also look at the visual culture (paintings, statues, and memorials) of the war and at films that explore experiences both on the battlefield and on the home front.

We will study such authors as Vera Brittain, Ernest Hemingway, Siegfried Sassoon, Rebecca West, and Ernst Jünger. Together, we will explore how artists and writers responded to what the British Prime Minister David Lloyd George called “a cyclone which is tearing up by the roots the ornamental plants of modern society and wrecking some of the flimsy trestle bridges of modern civilization.” And we will ask what artists' responses from a century ago have to teach us about artistic reactions to present-day convulsions.

Associate Professor of English, Stanford

Nicholas Jenkins is the primary investigator for Kindred Britain, a digital humanities website that traces relationships among nearly 30,000 British people. He has contributed to the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, and The New Yorker. He received a DPhil from the University of Oxford.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth (ISBN 978-0143039235)
(Required) Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms (ISBN 978-1476764528)
(Required) Tim Kendall, Ed., Poetry of the First World War: An Anthology (ISBN 978-0198703204)
(Required) Hew Strachan, The First World War (ISBN 978-0143035183)
(Required) Rebecca West, The Return of the Soldier (ISBN 978-0141180656)
(Required) Ernst Junger, Storm of Steel (ISBN 978-1696237727)