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Jocelyn Bowie
College of Arts and Sciences

Last modified: Monday, May 23, 2011

Indiana University 'Themester' to focus on issues of war and peace

May 23, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Tim O'Brien, author of Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried, chronicling the experiences of American soldiers who served in Vietnam, will visit campus in mid-October as part of Themester 2011: "Making War, Making Peace." O'Brien's visit will include a free public talk as well as class sessions with undergraduate students.

This year, the goal of Themester is to provoke thought and discussion on such questions as:

  • Should we go to war, and for what reasons?
  • What counts as war or peace for a particular culture or era?
  • What resources do we draw upon as we negotiate how we "make" war and peace?
  • In what ways are both war and peace implicated by the use of violence to achieve so-called "desirable" results?
  • How does our understanding of wartime violence shape how we imagine "peace"?
Tim O'Brien

Photo by Meredith O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Print-Quality Photo

As happens each fall during Themester, there will be an array of events, exhibits, plays, invited speakers, service-learning activities, panels and lectures. The College of Arts and Sciences launched the themed semester initiative in the fall of 2009 as a means to engage students, faculty and community members in research and discussion on a single, multilayered topic.

Themester 2011 will include a curriculum bundle of more than 40 courses from across College of Arts and Sciences departments. Courses range from "Archaeology of Violence and Conflict," taught by the College's Department of Anthropology, to "Biomedicine and Nuclear Challenges" in Collins Living-Learning Center.

Faculty members from the departments of Economics, Political Science and Religious Studies will team-teach a course called COLL T200 "The Economics, Politics and Ethics of Modern Warfare," a three-credit course that carries distribution credit for undergraduate students majoring in the College. The class includes five invited lecturers. It meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m.; members of the public will be invited to attend each invited lecture session; the complete schedule will be announced closer to the start of the fall semester.

The IU Cinema will take part in Themester with a war-and-peace-themed series that will include both feature films (Dr. Strangelove) and a variety of documentaries, including: Fog of War (2003), My Vietnam Your Iraq (made by Ron Osgood from the IU Department of Telecommunications, 2008), Out of Cordoba (2009) and others.

The College's Department of Theatre and Drama is offering three Themester-related productions: Hair, about a peace-loving hippie named Claude who is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War; The Three Musketeers, adapted from the Alexandre Dumas novel; and Lysistrata, in which the heroine persuades the women of Greece to withhold sex from their men, to force them to negotiate for peace instead of going to war.

Themester is helping to sponsor the Bloomington Playwrights Project's AwareFest, an evening of short plays by local and nationally-known writers, and the Jewish Theatre of Bloomington production of Hiding in the Spotlight, the story of retired Jacobs School of Music instructor Zhanna Dawson's survival of the Holocaust. As it has each year, Themester will partner with Cardinal Stage Company on its early fall production.

"The Themester program is lucky enough to have some very generous supporters," said Steve Watt, associate dean for undergraduate education in the College. "Don and Ellie Knauss have made a substantial gift for the third year in a row, and the funding they have provided is being used in part to cover costs for T200, so we can open it to the community, bring in various speakers, and so forth. We are deeply grateful to Don and Ellie for their on-going support of Themester. Jane Pauley and Garry Trudeau have also made a substantial gift, for the second year in a row. We plan to use their gift once again to enhance outreach to the public schools."

Don Knauss, the 2009 recipient of the College's Distinguished Alumni Award, is president and CEO of the Clorox Co. He earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1977. Jane Pauley, who earned a B.A. in political science in 1972, was anchor of NBC's Today program for 13 years and Dateline NBC for 12 years.

Themester is organized by the College of Arts and Sciences with a faculty committee that this year is chaired by Professor John Lucaites from the Department of Communication and Culture.

O'Brien's visit is sponsored by the College of Arts and Sciences, the IU Institute for Advanced Study and the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions.

For a complete calendar of lectures, exhibits, classes and other events, see