Week in Review: War Literature

           Friday Dialogue from                

                                      Your Two Favorite Educators 

As Emily and Aubrey look back over the week they use their razor sharp wit to discuss student empathy and the role of war literature 

1.  What do you find the most challenging about teaching war texts? 

Emily:  I never really know how to remove my own opinions to the point that it doesn’t influence their own interpretation.  Every supplement we give students represents an undercurrent or an idea.  It influences their interpretation.  I find it so difficult to present every perspective or view of the particular war in a manner that truly allows them to form their own opinion not as a product of my own.  Even though I don’t think I have very definitive and domineering views of war it is such a challenge to not embed my views.

Aubrey: I agree.  Although it’s interesting.  Often I find that students are incredibly sensitive to these types of discussions and we all ultimately feel the same empathy regardless of viewpoint.  I think this happens rarely when I teach other texts.


2.  What types of supplemental texts have been helpful?

Emily:  I think images are the best.  Even though images, like text, can convey a clear argument, I think it is easier to find a variety of images that can be interpreted from a variety of lenses to alleviate some of the inherent biases present in our lessons.

Aubrey: Images do make a difference.  I have had some of the best classroom discussions by using Matthew Brady images from the library of congress.  The students are always struck by how young the soldiers look and how Brady chooses to “photograph.”

3.  What are some of the most rewarding aspects of teaching a war text?

Emily:  Depending on the year, I think it speaks to something they can all understand.  They most likely know someone who served, or could have served, or they can relate to their own fears of having to serve.  When Obama was first elected and was speaking frequently about mandatory service (whether it is through battle or volunteering for organizations like the Peace Corp), I think a lot of students were able to respond readily to The Things They Carried.  My fear about this is that it moves away from an analytical study about a text and moves too much into feelings and reactions/reader response, but I do think there is still a place for those.

Aubrey: It’s always interesting the first person “narratives” they bring to texts like Catch 22 or The Things They Carried. Students who rarely speak feel moved by these texts because they are so personal.  While they can be difficult to teachbecause of content, some of my best teaching experiences are a result of these texts.

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