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April D. Trask (Section 01)
(Offered as HIST 220 [E] and EUST 220) In an interview shortly before her death, Leni Riefenstahl, renowned director of the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, claimed that art was apolitical and that she was blameless in the crimes of the Nazi state. “I didn’t drop any atom bombs. I didn’t denounce anyone. So where does my guilt lie?” she questioned. This course explores the specific relationship between visual artifacts such as Triumph of the Will and politics and society in modern Europe. Focusing on primary artifacts and scholarly interpretations of Europe’s cultural history, students will examine how the politics and the practices of visual artifacts reflected and/or shaped Europeans’ experiences of historical change in the twentieth century. First, we will examine the terms and concepts central to the study of propaganda and persuasion, the historical contexts of propaganda in war (World War I, World War II, and the Cold War) and revolution, and major contemporary theoretical approaches to understanding propaganda. In case-studies of Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, and the Soviet Union, the course will explore the role of visual aesthetics in ethical questions of consent and coercion in everyday life under authoritarian regimes and in wartime conditions. Second, the course will explore the changing relationship between art and politics, and the efforts made by artists to not simply reflect, but shape political, cultural, and social change beyond the confines of state-sponsored propaganda. Students will develop skills in analyzing primary artifacts including visual art and film within the context of historical transformations and artistic movements.
Limited to 25 students. Spring semester. Visiting Professor Trask.
If Overenrolled: Priority will be given to Amherst College pre-registered students, pre-registered 5-college students, History majors, and then AC first-year students with an interest in majoring in History. Students who do not attend the first class will be dropped.