JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "History, Memory, and Popular Culture"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Vanda Wilcox
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 1:30-2:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: Junior Standing; Corequisite: EN 110
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This course aims to explore the relationship between history, memory, and popular culture: how is our view of the past shaped by popular culture, and how do societies collectively remember and represent the past? Students will learn to think critically about representations of the past in popular culture and the relationship between history and present day society.

Memories of past events live on and continue to affect the present in politics, society and culture. This seminar course introduces students to the concept of memory studies; explores the relationships between history and memory; and examines some of the ways in which societies and cultures remember and represent the past. Students will consider representations of national and international history in popular culture, such as comics, film and television, as well as formal means of memorialisation such as commemorative sites (memorials, monuments and museums).

In Fall 2018 we will focus on the ongoing political and cultural debate over memory and memorials of the US Civil War, and the Confederacy in particular, as well as look at the ways in which video games represent historical wars. We will also select a topic of students' own choice for the final section of the course.

The course is likely to be of particular interest not only to history majors but to media and communications majors.


By the end of the course, students will:
* have a greater understanding of the processes by which the past is remembered, presented and interpreted;
* be able to identify and critique public narratives about the past;
* be able to critically evaluate the ways in which various crucial nineteenth and twentieth century events have been presented.

The course will lead students to consider the relationships between the past and the present along with exploring some aspects of the way history operates as a discipline.

Key skills used and developed by the course will be:
      - critical reading and thinking;
      - analysis and argument;
      - participation in and leadership of class discussions;
      - oral and written presentation of critical reactions to key cultural sources such as texts, films, monuments;
     - independently planning, researching and writing a specific topical study.

Developing an individual analysis, justifying it with appropriate arguments and citations, and effectively communicating these ideas whether orally or in writing, are the central requirements of the course.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Dixie's Daughters: the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the preservation of Confederate CultureKaren L. CoxUP of Florida9780813031330  
Defeat and Memory: Cultural Histories of Military Defeat in the Modern EraJenny Macleod (ed)Palgrave 9780230517400  
The First World War in Computer GamesChris KempshallPalgrave9781137491756  
Pixel Lions-the Image of the Soldier in First World War Computer Games Chris KempshallHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 35, no. 4 (2015 Dec): p. 656-672   
The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American HistoryAnne C. BaileyCambridge University Press978-1316643488  
This Republic of SufferingDrew Gilpin FaustAlfred A. Knopf9780375404047  
The Memory of the Civil War in American CultureAlice Fahs and Joan Waugh (eds)UNC Press9780807875810  
War and Remembrance in the Twentieth CenturyJ. Winter & E. SivanCambridge University Press9780511599644  

Research paperStudents will write a 3000-word independent research paper during the semester, which will constitute a significant proportion of their final grade. This will be based on individually selected topic, in consultation with the instructor, and represent a chance for students to explore the history and memory of a specific event or topic of their choice, or to critically compare several cultural works and their roles in generating collective memory. 30%
Reading Responses / Active Class ParticipationThis is an advanced seminar, so alongside lectures and reading assignments, the course will rely heavily on class discussion. Students will be expected to participate through informal presentations and debate, based on critical evaluation of films, television shows and games as well as assigned readings. It is essential that you come to class prepared and ready to discuss the readings. At least three written reading OR screening responses should be submitted on moodle during the semester. If you attend every class but do not participate in discussion (by asking and answering questions and analysing the readings and screenings, both in class and on moodle) then you will fail this assignment. 20%
Research Plan / Annotated BibliographyStudents will be required to submit a detailed outline and annotated bibliography two weeks before the research paper is due, in order to receive feedback. Also included in this share of the grade is a short oral presentation of your research plan to the class.10%
Historical video-gaming paperStudents will write a short (1400-1500 word) paper on the presentation of war in video games, using materials assigned in class and at least one game as played independently and discussed in class.20%
Final ExamA final exam on the concepts and content covered in the class.20%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course, leading to written work of an exceptional quality. Students have directly engaged with the theoretical approaches to memory studies outlined in the course
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluate theory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture and reference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments. Students show some ability to work with the theoretical approaches to memory studies outlined in the course.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings. Basic or minimal understanding of theoretical approaches to memory studies are displayed.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.


Remember that class participation makes up a significant share of your grade and if you are not present you will not be able to participate. You will be expected to discuss the films we view and other material only covered in class – as well as material from the reading assignments - during your final exam so it is your responsibility to catch up on any material you miss. Attendance is taken at the start of each class for my records.

It is not possible to arrange make-ups for final exams. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.

As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


NB the finalised list of reading assignments will be issued in class, please refer to that document.

Assignments must be completed BY the date for which they are listed.

All students must buy a copy of the game 'Valiant Hearts: The Great War' (available for PC, PS3/PS4, Xbox360/XboxOne, Android or iOS - this is a required 'text' for the course.)

Readings marked with a star are available on the class Moodle. All other readings are on reserve in the Library. For further reading and research on Civil War memory, please see http://cwmemory.com/civilwarmemorysyllabus/



Class Topic


3 Sep


Social memory, cultural memory and personal memory – a theoretical introduction


5 Sep


Constructing popular memory: film, TV, literature, memoirs, memorials & commemoration

Readings on Masada on moodle / class handouts

10 Sep


War memorials and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Visit the Vittoriano monument in Piazza Venezia & the  Tomb of the Unknown soldier there.

12 Sep


Myths and Representations of the Great War - a Global Comparison

Brandt, Susanne: "Memory of the War: Popular Memory 1918-1945, 1945 to the Present" in: 1914-1918-online. International Encyclopedia of the First World War, ed. by Ute Daniel, et al. Berlin, 2017.

17 Sep


Film & TV representations of the First World War: Paths of Glory

 Watch Paths of Glory (DVD)

19 Sep


Film & TV representations of the First World War: Blackadder


24 Sep


History and Video Games (I):  Authenticity vs Re-enactment

Brian Rejack, "Toward a virtual reenactment of history: Video games and the recreation of the past", Rethinking History, 11:3, (2007)

26 Sep


History and Video Games (II): Are Games History?

 Dawn Spring, "Gaming history: computer and video games as historical scholarship", Rethinking History, 19:2 (2015)

1 Oct


Video Games and the First World War (I) Chris Kempshall, The First World War in Video Games

 3 Oct


Video Games and the First World War (II) Chris Kempshall, “Pixel Lions-the Image of the Soldier in First World War Computer Games”, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television 35, no. 4 (2015 Dec): p. 656-672

You should have played a significant portion of 'Valiant Hearts' by this class.
8 Oct


Memories of the US Civil War in the immediate post-war Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering, Ch. 7: Accounting
10 Oct 


The Civil War on Screen - From The Birth of a Nation to Glory and Beyond

 Watch Glory (DVD)
Readings on HBO's "Confederate"

15 Oct


 Memories of Enslavement (I)

Anne C. Bailey, The Weeping Time. 

Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History (2017)

17 Oct


Memories of Enslavement (II)


 22 Oct


Confederate Memories (I)

Karen L. Cox, "Confederate Defeat and Cultural Expressions of Memory", in Defeat and Memory: Cultural Histories of Military Defeat ed. Jenny Macleod, Palgrave, 2008.
24 Oct


Confederate Memories (II)

Karen L. Cox, Dixie's Daughters : The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture, 

 29 Oct


Civil War Memories and the Civil Rights Movement

Jon Wiener, "Civil War, Cold War, Civil Rights: the Civil War Centennial in Context" in The memory of the Civil War in American culture, eds Alice Fahs and Joan Waugh

 31 Oct


Civil War Monuments: Silent Sam and others

Silent Sam readings & links on moodle

 5 Nov


Civil War Monuments (II) Student presentations

 7 Nov


France and Algeria Introduction


 12 Nov


NO CLASS: Watch Days of Glory (DVD)

 N. Cooper, “‘Days of Glory’? Veterans, reparation and national memory”. Journal of War and Culture Studies, 2007 1(1): 91-106 *

 14 Nov


NO CLASS: Watch Battle of Algiers (DVD)


 NY Times reading on Battle of Algiers*

 19 Nov


France and Algeria discussion

 A. Prost “The Algerian War in French collective memory”, in J. Winter & E. Sivan, War and Remembrance in the Twentieth Century (2000)

 21 Nov


 Research Project Presentations

 Annotated Bibliography due in.

 26 Nov


tbc - class vote on final topic


 28 Nov




 3 Dec




5 Dec


Conclusions & Revision Session


First Paper Due: Monday 15 October
Annotated Bibliography: Wednesday 21 November
Final Paper Due: Friday 7 December

Memory of the First World War

Memory of the First World War

Memory of the First World War