Lee Rumbarger

RHE 309S: The Homefront


There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are doing what all of us are, sitting in their homes hoping that a bomb doesn't fall on them and keeping their doors shut. -Salam Pax, Web log from Baghdad, 23 March 2003

All the search lights are erect. They point to a spot exactly above this roof. At any second a bomb may fall on this very room. One, two, three, four, five, sixä -Virginia Woolf, "Thoughts on Peace During an Air Raid," 1940

As the Bush administration touted a war of liberationčnot occupationčin Iraq, ≥Salam Pax,≤ an Iraqi citizen, logged online diary entries about anxiety and everyday life inside Baghdad; as Churchill vowed never-surrenders, Virginia Woolf stared at her bedroom ceiling, imagining its collapse from a German bomb blast. Bush and Churchill's words are the stuff of history books--rhetoric meant to define events for nations, for the world. But Pax and Woolf offer a different and intriguing perspective--a ≥homefront≤ perspective of people who don't necessarily make war but live through it.

This course introduces the rhetoric of three wars and three homefronts: Baghdad during the 2003 Iraq war, London during the Blitz, and the United States during an ongoing "war on terror." By comparing official and alternative rhetorics, we will become sophisticated readers of both and, hopefully, begin to recognize the voices of history-tellers from many walks of life. We will learn tools of effective argument, identify them at work in a variety of texts and contexts, and use them to strengthen our own voices, our own writing.

This semester, students will complete several short reading and class-activity responses, draft and revise three formal essays and provide detailed critiques of peers' writing.


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