History | Colloquium-Modern West European History
H620 | 3142 | Bucur-Deckard

A portion of the above section reserved for majors
Above section meets with HIST H645, H680, H745, and CULS C701


The idea of memory has emerged as a subject of serious scholarship
at a time when the viability of nationalism and its attendant
discipline of history have encountered serious criticisms.  This
colloquium intends to discuss the literature on the problem of
national memory in nineteenth and twentieth century Europe and
America.  Topically it will look at the rise of national history in
the nineteenth century and the ideas, symbols, and commemorations
that were deployed to promote its acceptance.  The subject of war
and remembering will occupy considerable class attention.  The
impact of the World Wars and the Holocaust in Western and Eastern
Europe had crucial consequences for participating nations.  Wars
raised questions about the promise of nationalisms for better
futures based upon reason and progress; they produced traumatic
memories of brutality and loss that prompted widespread cultural
debates about the very viability of earlier histories and memories
that had glossed over the violent potential of nations themselves.
Postwar discussions about the past were driven as much by victims of
brutality as much as they were by citizens dreaming of material
progress and equal rights.

The basic structure of national remembering was not only altered by
war but by the spread of mass culture.  Novels, films, museums and
other forms of mass entertainment began to express more discreet
versions of the past.  Individual and group memories began to claim
more of the cultural and political space previously dominated by
nations themselves.  The way this process differed between the
democratic and socialist states will be given special attention.
Eventually the cultural of memory became more diffuse throughout
Europe and America (we’ll make some comparative references to the US
as well).  Discussion of the impact of mass culture on remembering
will be combined with analysis of the technologies of remembering:
museums, novels, films, monuments, etc.  Books to be read by
everyone include: Maurice Halbwachs, "On Collective Memory"; Maria
Bucur and Nancy Wingfield, eds., "Staging the Past:  Commemorations
and Nationalism in Habsburg Central Europe, 1848-Present"; Jay
Werner-Muller, "Memory and Power in Post-War Europe : Studies in the
Presence of the Past"; Michael Steinlauf, "Bondage to the Dead:
Poland the Memory of the Holocaust"; Nina Tumarkin, "The Living and
the Dead: The Rise and Fall of the Cult of World War II in Russia";
and Jay Winters, "Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War
in European Cultural History."  A number of novels and films will
also be included for discussion.  Each student will write a mid-term
and final essay of 6-8 pages synthesizing the literature discussed.