The Vietnam war was a great watershed in twentieth century history that rearranged geo-politics while changing the United States through dissent and social unrest. Frankly, things have never quite recovered. It was a catastrophic and humiliating defeat, but that is all the more reason to study it, for failure often has more to teach us than success. This course provides a framework of free discussion and basic readings—ranging from battlefield memoirs to Graham Greene’s great novel The Quiet American—in which to pursue research on whatever aspect of the war they choose, from strategy to cinema and the arts. We will start with a look at the Empire of Vietnam that lasted a millennium, producing a uniquely refined and pure culture. Then we turn to the century of French colonialism and its end in 1954, which was followed by an invasion of South Vietnam from the north, through Laos. American policy was both arrogant and uninformed, converting a protracted loss (1955-1975) into what could easily have been a relatively bloodless success. That process we trace in its many strands. Finally we spend some time on contemporary Vietnam, on how the war is now understood, remembered, and memorialized, as well as how the country seeks to advance. And not least, without removing our focus from Vietnam, we assess how the United States has been changed. For every Tuesday meeting we will have some reading, to provide a common time line and set of issues. As the semester progresses, students will make informal presentations about their work. This is a “Research Seminar” which means a 15-20 page paper on a topic you choose yourself. This can be the most enjoyable and interesting part of the course.
Day and Time: 
T 0130PM-0430PM


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