Re: Viet Nam War Literature pedagogy query (multiple responses)

Sun, 26 Oct 1997 02:34:13 -0500


From: "Peter W. Brush" <>
Subject: Re: Viet Nam War Literature pedagogy query


> My previous experiences in this course have been generally positive;
> however, I have been plagued by a persistent tendency on the part of my
> students to read the literature of the era as "truthful/untruthful"--that
> is, with an implicit valorization of the authenticity of personal
> experience as a test of a particular text's "value." This has lead to some
> interesting exhanges--anger, for example, at the discovery that Tim
> O'Brien's stories in _The Things They Carried_ are *fictional* and
> therefore not "true" in the sense that they read, say, Wallace Terry's
> _Bloods_, or Hayslip's _When Heaven & Earth Changed Places_, as true
> stories. Hasford's _The Short-Timers_ was thus dismissed out of hand
> because, if it wasn't true, if it hadn't "actually happened," what on
> earth was the value in reading it?

I know what you mean about how students privilege "being there." When
this came up in class I once mentioned how, back in the old days, ships'
logs would from time to time contain references to mermaids. It must be that
mermaids are real or how else to explain their occurrence in ships'
logs? These sailors were actually there and saw them. Of course, then
we had a discussion about whether _Splash_ was more realistic than
say, _Platoon_ or _Full Metal Jacket_.

Peter Brush


From: "William M. King" <kingwm@spot.Colorado.EDU>
Subject: Re: Viet Nam War Literature pedagogy query

Here at the University of Colorado, I teach a course on occasion
called "Black America and the War in Vietnam." Other than *Bloods*
and *Brothers*, a couple of other titles I have found useful in
realizing a bicultural perspective on the war are: *Black Bitches
Dancing With Charlie*, *Cannon Fodder*, and *Griot*. You may also
want to look at a special issue of *Vietnam Generation* I edited in
1989: "A White Man's War," for additional information. Finally, there
are two new books and a doctoral dissertation of which I have recently
become aware. Unfortunately, I do not have them here in the office
with me so I can't provide their titles at the moment.

William M. King,
Professor and Coordinator,
Afroamerican Studies
The Unviersity of Colorado at Boulder