FT 06-L Life Stories and Vietnam War Stories: The Life and Writings of Tim O'Brien
Tobey Herzog, Department of English
Over thirty years ago (April 30, 1975) Saigon, South Viet Nam, fell to the North Vietnamese, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Since that day, numerous Vietnam War veterans - Amercian, South Vietnamese, and North Vietnamese - have written memoirs and fiction about war experiences on the battlefield and on the home front. One of the most prominent of the American soldier-authors is Tim O'Brien. He has ben labeled by some critics as the best of America's writers dealing with the Vietnam War, and his 1990 novel, The Things They Carried, is one fo the most widely taught pieces of contemporary literature in high schools and colleges and one of the most widely read books in the U.S. and abrpad. So who is Tim O'Brien; what are some of the war and non-war subjects he writes about; why is his writing so powerful; and how many of his own life stories and concerns make their way into his writing? These are some of the questions that we will adress in this tutorial. We will begin this tutorial by briefly examining key historical events during the Vietnam War era and then moving to a study of O'Brien's connections to the war through his roles as a son, combat soldier, and author. Along the way, we will read accounts of O'Brien's life, listen to and read interviews with O'Brien conducted by the tutorial teacher, and read several of the author's books - including his war memoir, If I Die in a Combat Zone; his combat novel The Things They Carried; his war-aftermath novel, In the Lake of the Woods; and his most recent novel July, July. Class activities will include oral reports, class discussion, student panels, research projects, films related to the class subject matter, in-class written reponses, a series of 3-4 page papers, and a final project.