The Vietnam War and American Culture

ENGL 175 01 Fall 1999

Mr. Furr

1. Required Reading.

Marilyn Blatt Young, The Vietnam Wars: 1945-1975. Harper Perennial, 1991.

Franklin, H.B., M.I.A., or Mythmaking in America. Rutgers Univ. Press, 1993.

McGehee, Ralph. C.I.A.: Deadly Deceits. Audio cassette, Alternative Radio, 1985.

All these materials are Required. You should buy them immediately, as the University Store will start sending them back to the publishers in about 6 weeks.

Young's book is a general history of the period. It's well documented and readable. You should read it immediately, and not wait for specific assignments from me.

Franklin's 'M.I.A.' book studies the "POW/MIA" story: where it came from; how it grew; and why.

McGehee spent 25 years in the C.I.A., including long service in Thailand and Vietnam. His lecture about what American policy in Vietnam really consisted in is an eye-opening account.

Many of the readings for this course are in the form of xeroxed handouts. These are articles from journals and newspapers and chapters of books. This is the only way to get a wide range of viewpoints and to keep current. No anthology can do this.

During the second week of class, I will collect $8.00 from each student to cover the cost of xeroxing this material. Please bring exact change.

2. Goal of this course.

My goal, as the instructor, is to get you to think critically about the Vietnam War. This is not as easy as it sounds, since there is an "official American version" of the war that all of us are exposed to over many years. This version, in its several varieties, has an enormous influence on thinking about the Vietnam War. In fact, it acts to prevent thinking about it, in many ways. This is the major obstacle confronting us, and any American who wants to learn about the Vietnam War.

I will give you primary and, mainly, secondary material -- articles and chapters from books. I have chosen mainly "scholarly" material (called "Secondary source material" by those concerned with method). I want to focus our attention on such questions as:

These questions, and other ones, are not easy to resolve, and are very troubling in their implications. They, not the "facts" of the war themselves, important as they may be, are the real focus of the course.

3. Format of the Course

This course is organized around group discussions and group projects, of more or less equal size.

Writing: We will do a lot of writing to clarify our ideas about what we are reading and discussing. This writing will lead naturally into exam questions and, perhaps, into term projects.

This writing will be shared through the use of electronic mail, or "e-mail".   Every student must have two email accounts. Go to the page with fuller instructions on email and Internet requirements here.

We will also use Streaming Audio in this course. You should IMMEDIATELY read the Streaming Audio instructions here, download and install the free RealPlayer G2, and buy the inexpensive earphones (if you are going to use the computer labs, and if you don't already have a set).

You can do your writing directly on your email. Or, you can do your writing using any Word Processing software that runs on either an IBM-PC compatible computer or an Apple Macintosh computer. Write, edit, rewrite, spell-check your writing, and then "copy-and-paste" it into the message area of an email message, and send it to me. For copy-and-paste instructions, see the specific Help pages I have prepared for you. They are linked on our course's Home Page.

You cannot use a typewriter, or a "dedicated" Word Processing machine (such as a Brother), or hand-write, your writing.

A typical class may begin with small-group discussions on something we have all read, usually prompted by questions you've written about and exchanged on email. Often we then have time to go into large-group discussions. Occasionally we'll have a guest speaker or a film (or part of a film),again to stimulate thinking, discussion, writing, further reading, and clarifying of issues.

4. Schedule.

During the second week of class, I will distribute a schedule, covering the whole semester, showing what subject matter we will be covering and when.

The schedule will also be available from the Home Page.

5. Written Assignments. Please study the Guidelines for Biweekly Assignment. Print it out.

It is your responsibility to have the material read and thoroughly understood by the date we will begin discussing it in class. I will require written reactions. This guarantees that the work is read on time.

If everyone has read the work on time, group and class discussions become meaningful. Any one group member who fails to read the material before class sabotages group discussion and projects.

6.Attendance Policy.

Attendance will be taken each day. Three unexcused absences will lower the final grade by one grade (e.g. "A" becomes "A-"); five unexcused absences lowers it by one letter (e.g. "A" becomes "B").

If you cannot attend class for whatever reason, I expect you to let me know by email; by phone; or in person before class. If this is impossible, leave a message the same day as the class. If you fail, or forget, to do this, your absence will be "unexc used."

You should email me at FURRG (on our local ALPHA system) or (from any Internet Address).

If this is impossible, leave a phone message at 655-7305, on the answering machine.

Lateness Policy.

If you are late for class -- after I have taken attendance - - I will count it as an "unexcused" absence unless you remember to tell me, at the end of that same class, that you came late. If you forget to do this, your recorded absence will remain. I do this because lateness disrupts the class and group discussions. Please do not be consistently late.

I do not want to be punitive. I do want to guarantee that we can begin class every day with every body in every group present, so that no group has to 'wait' for its members to show up, and everybody has done the reading. Just like failure to complete the reading, regular lateness on the part of any student sabotages the ability of that student's whole group to have a positive learning experience.

6. Exams.

There will be an optional mid-term exam, and an optional final due at the place and time listed in the Exam Schedule in your Course Schedule Booklet for this semester. These will be take-home exams.

7. Final Grades:

Your final grade will be calculated from:

8. How To See Me:

You can email me anytime! I check my email at least once a day, often more, so I can get right back to you. My email address (on Alpha): FURRG. On the Internet:

But you will also want to see me personally. My office hours are in DI-325 (Dickson Hall), TF 11:00 -12:15.

My office phone number is (201)655-7305.

Go HERE to the Home Page for this course! | | last modified 2 Sep 99