Welcome to the Course Website of ENGL. 379, a course taught by Fiona Lee at Queens College in Spring 2014.

Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. (January 2014) Source: Black on Palestine Tumblr

Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Bethlehem. (January 2014). Photo by Robyn Spencer. Source: Black on Palestine Tumblr


The history of the twentieth-century consists of an unending series of wars fought around the world that continues unabated today. This course examines the ways in which this global state of endless war is refracted in literary and visual depictions of twentieth-century military conflicts in the Asia Pacific and Africa, and their repercussions elsewhere. We will begin by considering how war has shaped literary and visual forms of expression, and, in turn, how literature and visual media shape our understanding of war. We will then investigate how the theme of refuge emerges in our readings and consider how it serves as a means of critically engaging with the complex relationship between war and nationalism. The word, “refuge,” connotes the idea of home, and states often evoke this image to describe the nation in order to justify war—for e.g., following the September 11, 2001 attacks, President George W. Bush began referring to the United States as “the homeland” to justify the “Global War on Terror” as a means of securing its freedom. Indeed, the popular support of war is driven by nationalist or patriotic sentiment. At the same time, the destructive forces of war also lead to the proliferation of refugees, whose very condition of statelessness the international framework of nation-states is theoretically designated to prevent. By illuminating this paradoxical condition of refuge, how might the literary and visual texts we consider shape our understanding of the issues that perpetuate the global state of endless war?

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