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War, Sex & Gender in the United States: from Civil War to WWII (HI2C9-15)

Module Convenor: Professor Susan Carruthers 


Office: H3.07

Office hours: Tues 2-3pm; Thurs 4-5pm (via Teams)

Other times by appointment.

Lecture: Online

Seminar times:


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before 5pm on the same day or early the next day.

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War has played a central role in shaping politics, society, and culture in the United States since its inception. This 15 CATS second-year option module explores the multiple ways in which war has both drawn on and reconfigured American gender constructs in consequential ways, some more durable than others. Organised around three thematic blocs, the module will examine martial processes that sought to remodel masculinities and femininities over the decades between the Civil War and the end of World War II (1861-1945).

The structure of the module encourages students to interrogate how gender norms have been manipulated to build support for conflict and in the name of sustaining morale; how various forms of war work have been gendered (and how normative ideas about who should perform what roles in wartime have evolved over time); and, finally, how processes of postwar reconstruction-- mourning, demobilisation and rehabilitation-- have often sought to resuscitate traditional gender identities, though without always succeeding. Over the course of the module, we will probe the ways in which war generates not only pressures for conformity but also resistance, analysing how ethnicity, class, sexuality, and race have complicated the wartime expectations and experiences of many non-elite Americans.

Seminar discussion will focus not only on historical scholarship but also a wide array of primary source materials, including newspaper and magazine stories, films, and popular song.