Portland Community College | Portland, Oregon

Course Number:
ENG 215
Course Title:
Literature of Genocide
Credit Hours:
Lecture Hours:
Lecture/Lab Hours:
Lab Hours:
Special Fee:

Course Description

Introduces a range of international texts and films pertaining to genocide in order to explore the social, cultural, political, and historical conditions that have led to genocide, the conditions it creates for its victims, and its aftermath. Explores experiences of individuals, later generations, and nations, including issues of exile and reconciliation. Considers memoirs, fiction, poetry, literary nonfiction, documentaries and feature films created by survivors and others. Prerequisites: WR 115 and RD 115 or equivalent placement test scores. Audit available.

Intended Outcomes for the course

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to: 

1. Identify and discuss qualities of genocide literature and film, and the unique issues encountered by writers and readers alike when approaching this
2. Discuss the complexities and tensions underlying the definition of genocide, and the issues surrounding intervention and a nation

Course Activities and Design

This course may include lecture, discussion, and group work, along with videos relating to genocide, possible guest speakers, oral presentations, and in-class writing.

Outcome Assessment Strategies

May include essays, reading responses, exams, student presentations, class discussion, research tasks.  Attendance policies vary with instructors: Students missing a week€™s worth of class may not expect an €œA€; those missing two week€™s worth may not pass the course.  

Course Content (Themes, Concepts, Issues and Skills)

The Composition and Literature SAC values the autonomy of individual instructors and a diversity of approaches to its courses. The following content guide reflects these values. This guide is not intended to be prescriptive; it is descriptive of what we do in our classes. It is not a list of outcomes, but rather is a description of the ways we ma get to those outcomes. It describes the typical activities students may undertake in the process of working towards these outcomes. Some of the items in the guide may overlap; some may contradict each other. These inconsistencies reflect the SAC€™s inclusive approach to course content as well as the oftentimes messy and recursive process of designing a literature course.

Identify and discuss qualities of genocide literature and film and the unique issues confronted by writers and readers alike when approaching this literature.

  1. Discuss unique issues that confront readers and creators of this literature, including guilt, responsibility, and the tensions among the need for accuracy, the demands of artistry and the unreliability of memory.

Discuss the complexities and tensions underlying the definition of genocide, and the issues surrounding intervention and a nation's purview over its own citizens and culture.

1.              Discuss the practical complexities of using the term €œgenocide€ in the context of international politics.

Read/watch closely and analytically to determine an author€™s/director€™s purpose, perspective and use of rhetorical strategies in creating a work of literature/film.

  1. Participate in class and small group discussions and activities to work towards an understanding of the often complex relationships between form and content, purpose and structure, writer and audience in genocide literature.
  2. Recognize and evaluate the role of voice, tone, diction, syntax, figurative language, and other stylistic features of literature.
  3. Recognize and evaluate the role of cinematography, scripts, lighting, music and other stylistic features of film.

Use literary texts and films from a variety of perspectives to understand the wide range of experiences around genocide and its aftermath, and to engage in thoughtful discussion and self-reflection in the context of this understanding.

  1. Assess and question personal knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors in the context of unfamiliar readings and/or an open exchange of ideas.
  2. Discuss the value, validity and purpose of exploring genocide literature and film in a classroom when genocides continue to occur while the class is ongoing.

Discuss how culturally-based practices, values, and beliefs, and the historically defined meanings of difference can create an environment for genocide to occur.

  1. Participate in group discussions about the ways cultural beliefs, values and practices, and long-standing/historical political contexts can come together to lay the foundation for a genocide to occur.

Write coherent and compelling essays that begin to explore the complex questions pertaining to this literature.

  1. Practice both informal and formal writing that includes revision as opportunities to explore one€™s thoughts pertaining to the very complex ideas in this literature.
  2. Balance the need/desire to find easy answers with the reality that there are only complex ones when it comes to genocide.

Possible Texts and Materials: A wide variety of literary works from all genres are available in English or English translation, such as Survival at Auschwitz, by Primo Levi, A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali by Gil Courtmanche, Nine Armenians  by Leslie Avayzian, Maus by Art Spiegelman, The Question of Bruno by Aleksander Hemon, Ejo by Derrick Burleson, and Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich. The numbers of films from different perspectives is no less impressive, and includes the likes of Hotel Rwanda, The Killing Fields, Ararat, Darfur Diaries, and The Downfall, to name a few. Texts are chosen by individual instructors.