ARLT 101G | The American War in Vietnam
University of Southern California
The Vietnam War is still invoked in debates over current American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This course provides an introduction to the war’s history in order for today’s Americans to understand some of the key factors leading the US into its current geopolitical situation. Since the war remains poorly understood and remembered, the course begins over a century ago in the French colonial era (1887-1954), spends the bulk of its time on the period of American involvement (1954-1975), and ends with postwar legacies in Southeast Asia and the United States.
The course is a multidisciplinary, multicultural and international overview of the war’s history and its afterlife in American and Vietnamese memory. Student reading will draw primarily from films, literature, art, journalism, historical writing, and political discourse, while lectures will provide necessary historical and political background. The course corrects a fundamental flaw in the American pedagogy and scholarship on Vietnam, which mostly sees the country, people, and war purely from the perspective of American self-interest and ethnocentrism. In contrast, this courses stresses the diversity of American experiences, the importance of Vietnamese points of view, and the existence of international actors in the war who were neither American nor Vietnamese.
Students will develop critical thinking skills through 1) writing papers and 2) working in collaborative teams to develop the course’s public project, an online memorial featuring oral histories of the war’s witnesses and testimonies to the dead. Using a lo-tech approach to multimedia, “The American War in Vietnam” actively involves students in engaging with history, sharing their work with the general public, and constructing a digital memorial. The papers will be 5-7 page analytical essays addressing the texts of the course, where students will be required to study these texts closely.
Besides learning critical thinking skills and acquiring knowledge about the war, what students will take away from the course is a set of multimedia skills and the ability to use them to share their scholarship and ideas with the general public.
The goals of the course for student learning are:
1) to provide a multidisciplinary overview of the history of the war and its afterlife.
2) to address a diversity of ethnic, cultural, and national memories about the war.
3) to actively involve students in engaging with history via multimedia.
4) to have students share their work with the general public via the course website, www.anotherwarmemorial.com. Later classes will also contribute to this site, which will be of scholarly and general use.
5) to prepare students to think critically and analytically, both in general and in relationship to the Vietnam War.
The development of the multimedia component of this course is made possible by a grant from the Fund for Innovative Undergraduate Teaching.
Viet Thanh Nguyen is an associate professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002). His articles have appeared in numerous journals and books, including PMLA, American Literary History, Western American Literature, positions: east asia cultures critique, The New Centennial Review, Postmodern Culture, the Japanese Journal of American Studies, and Asian American Studies After Critical Mass. He has received residencies, fellowships and scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the James Irvine Foundation, the Huntington Library, the Mellon Foundation, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. His short fiction has been published in Manoa, Orchid: A Literary Review, Best New American Voices 2007, A Stranger Among Us: Stories of Cross-Cultural Collision and Connection, Narrative Magazine, and Gulf Coast, where his story won the 2007 Fiction Prize. His writing has been translated into Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Spanish. He is currently working on two book projects, a collection of short stories and a comparative study of American and Vietnamese memories and representations of the American war in Viet Nam, focusing on the literary and visual arts.
Designer: Yoshiko Ogino
Programmer: Leander Kung
This website was designed with the student in mind, without compromising the elements of innovative design and technology integration. With minimal maintenance and headache, students are able to create multimedia-rich profiles that complement their academic studies. With this in mind, WordPress is the content management system of choice with its ability to automatically embed Youtube videos. The highly stylized front page and profile pages are all dynamically generated from well-labelled inputs that students can easily fill out.