The Shifting Lens of History: How we Reimagine the Past

Stephanie Yuhl – College of the Holy Cross

From the kiss in Times Square to "Rosie the Riveter" to "Saving Private Ryan," Americans tend to cherish their memories of WWII as "the best war ever." Yet the Vietnam War remains controversial and brings up an entirely different set of images – from anti-war protests to Agent Orange to the film, "Born on the Fourth of July." What helps explain these radically different understandings of two wars only twenty years apart? Of course, things get even more interesting when we take into consideration the historical memories of the other nations involved in these conflicts.

In this course, we will examine how different societies remember these wars and what those memories might tell us about national hopes and values, about generational change, and even about decisions regarding the military. Animating this presentation is the notion that history is different from the past – it is the often contested way that the past is remembered in the present.