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2016 NEH Summer Institute for College and University Teachers

Veterans in Society:

Ambiguities & Representations

10-29 July 2016


Blacksburg, VA,   and   Washington, DC



This syllabus is continually updated as institute faculty refine their readings and topics and other arrangements are finalized.

Before arriving, please consult the points of departure and reflection questions pages for the list of required and recommended readings and media that will be part of the first days' discussions.

For the duration of the institute, participants will have full online access to the library's databases, e-journals, and e-books, along with borrowing privileges.  Copies of books listed in this syllabus are on reserve at the circulation/reserve desk in Newman Library in case participants wish to read beyond the selections in the readings packet.  (Instructor=Pencek; course=Veterans in Society Institute.)


Readings below include links to

  • free online resources, 

  • Virginia Tech library's licensed online works (marked "VT online access," which will be activated on your arrival),  and  

  • bibliographic records (marked "VT copy") for printed works in the collection.  

Full citations are provided in the bibliography, including links to DOIs and other persistent addresses for articles and ebooks when we have been able to determine them; your ability to access them via your home institution depends on your library's licenses.

Most days will begin around 8:30 am with conversations reviewing the previous day; formal presentations will generally start at 9 and run until the noon lunch hour, with  a 10:30 coffee break.  Days will usually end by 5 pm.



Week 1: July 10–16

Sunday, July 10

Participants arrive in Blacksburg
Narrative-hunting tour of metropolitan Blacksburg

  • Look for things in the local environment that might say something about the relations of veterans and civilian society in southwestern Virginia.  What stories  might they tell?  How do they compare to sites around your home institution?

Casual evening dinner for participants and thei guests.  Details will be provided by email.


Monday, July 11

Morning: Welcome, introductions, institute overview, scheduling of participant conferences with principal faculty, and orientation to VirginiaTech research facilities and resources. Principal faculty (Jim Dubinsky, Bruce Pencek, Eric Hodges) explain the rationale behind the institute’s curriculum, their individual scholarly approaches to veterans studies, and how their approaches relate to the institute’s overall structure and content. 

  • At 11 am we will be joined by participants in an NEH summer seminar for school teachers.  Tyler Walters, dean of university libraries will offer a  brief welcome to Newman Library and Virginia Tech.  Then there will be a joint orientation to the nuts-and-bolts of connecting to campus wireless, accessing library online resources, and the like.  

Afternoon: Workshop led by Jim Dubinsky, Bruce Pencek, Eric Hodges, and Heidi Nobles discussing the representations of veterans found in the pre-institute readings.  Discussion of pre-institute reflection questions.

Tuesday, July 12

Morning: Seminar with Bruce Pencek and Marc Brodsky on the landscape of the literatures of veterans studies, with a special guest appearance by Beth Ann Koelsch.  Attempts to understand veterans are very old and very dispersed, within and beyond the humanities. So too are the ways libraries and archives have acquired, described, organized, and made those literatures available to readers and researchers. We will begin by considering how veterans’ topics have been represented in libraries, then move into a workshop: “Veterans Studies by Other Names? Library and Special Collections Research Resources.” This session will be particularly hands-on.  Participants should bring research questions to discuss, then explore through practical, guided researching.

Afternoon:  Group work: begin tying individual projects to the annotated bibiography, with an eye to pedagogy:

  1. Each participant came with a project in mind; by the end of the Institute, each person will have made some progress on their project. 

  2. Each group/team has interconnections linked to their research interests; but each team is diverse, in terms of gender, veteran / veteran family status, and discipline.  A key deliverable from the Institute will be pedagogical modules — that will link the individual members’ work into a coherent, interdisciplinary whole.  These will be designed for two weeks of instruction (could be a workshop or a part of a longer course).

  3. As part of 1 and 2, each participant will be gathering resources.  These will be consolidated within work groups and then in the  institute's collective annotated bibliography.  



  • Marc Brodsky and Bruce Pencek, “Is the Library Ready for an Emerging Field? The Case of Veterans Studies.”  Free online

  • Beth Ann Koelsch, "The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project."  Webinar.  Free online

  • Colyn Phillips.  “Pension for Soldiers’ Widows: Congressional Attitudes During the 19th Century."  Free online

  • Newsbank.  "Special Report: Military Life." VT online access

Wednesday, July 13

“Homer in the Hospital” — Joint seminar:  Dr. Jonathan Shay on the roles and value of classical literature for understanding and assisting veterans,  and Nancy Short, LCSW, OEF/OIF/OND Program Manager, Salem, VA Veterans Military Hospital, on challenges to combat veterans’ reintegration.



  • Jonathan Shay, Achilles in Vietnam, pp. 1–38, 165–210. VT copy 

  • Iliad, Book IX. VT copy

  • Shay, Odysseus in America, pp. 149–204, 242–254. VT copy



Coriolanus. (Newman Library)

In classical antiquity, citizenship and military service were often bound together.  Shakespeare's historical tragedy about a victorious Roman general raises important questions about the liminal status of veterans. Can the great returned warrior be a good citizen? What does he owe the polity? What does the public owe him? Ralph Fiennes's adaptation sets the play against a modern backdrop of Balkan war and cable news coverage — what might be the permanent questions about veterans in society, and which ones might depend on personality on one side and culture (or more specifically, in Aristotelean terms, regime) on the other?   VT DVD (See also VT copy of Coriolanus: the Shooting Script.)  Moderator: Bruce Pencek.

Thursday, July 14

Morning: Research time.

Early afternoon: Participants will take a first pass discussing the question, “What is the essential bibliography for veterans studies?” Of necessity, most of this institute deals with U.S. combat veterans. If teaching and research in the study of veterans qua veterans are to be historically deep, culturally inclusive, and methodologically rich, what works from outside the U.S. context are must-reads? What makes them compelling? There is no discrete veterans studies section in the library – what hunches can guide researchers and students to discover and integrate meaningful works?

Late afternoon: reconvene with Jonathan Shay and local therapist Dr Alexa Casey.


4:30-6:00 pm:  Walk to joint reception for NEH summer program participants. Alexander Black House Museum & Cultural Center (204 Draper Rd, downtown Blacksburg)


Friday, July 15

Morning: Seminar with James Marten on the controversial social status of veterans in the aftermath of the American Civil War.  Professor Marten offers reflection questions to help guide you through the extensive readings.



  • James Marten, Sing Not War. Intro, chs 2, 6.  VT copy.


  • James Wright, Those Who Have Borne the Battle.  VT copy.


Afternoon: Seminar with James Marten on issues masculinity, identity, and what veterans deserve, particularly through the lens of a Union veteran who was one of the best known speakers, Republican operatives, and advocates for veterans in America during the 1890s.



  • James Marten, America's Corporal: James Tanner in War and Peace (all).  VT ebook.

  • --- Sing Not War. pp 21-28, 64-72, ch 4

  • Selections from Larry Logue & Michael Barton, eds, The Civil War Veteran: A Historical Reader:  VT copy.

    • Reid, "USCT Veterans in Post-Civil War North Carolina"  

    • Shaffer, "I do not suppose that Uncle Same looks at the skin"   

    • Brundage, "Black Veterans Recall the Civil War"


Week 2: July 17–23


Part of Week 2 will be held in Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia.  

Watch for additions below of rendezvous points and times in case you get separated while traveling to, from, or in the Washington area.  We will provide further details face to face before departing Blacksburg.


Sunday, July 17

Morning (~ 10 am): “Commemoration and Reconciliation after the Civil War.”  Travel to Washington, DC, with Paul Quigley, director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.  En route to Washington, DC, you may drive by Confederate soldier monuments in Christiansburg (and possibly New Market) and Mount Jackson.  After lunch in Harrisonburg, we will rendezvous at 2:30 in Mount Jackson's Our Soldiers' Cemetery for a brief talk by Paul Quigley before proceeding to Washington.


Hundreds of monuments around the country, located on battlefields and in small-town courthouse squares, provide tangible evidence about how Americans memorialized Civil War soldiers. They also speak to the place of veterans and soldiers in American culture and society today. Comparing the physical commemoration of Civil War veterans in these different settings will open up fascinating discussions about attitudes toward veterans in postwar societies. Comparing the physical commemoration of Civil War veterans in these different settings will open up fascinating discussions about attitudes toward veterans in postwar societies.

Late afternoon: Check in at housing at American University (near Tenleytown-AU Metro station).


Monday, July 18

Morning:  We will visit Arlington National Cemetery with Paul Quigley.  Depart AU by 7:45 am; rendezvous at Welcome Center at 9 am. Our tour of the cemetery (9:30-11:30 am) will focus on the Civil War and will include stops at the Confederate Memorial, Arlington House, and United States Colored Troops graves.


Lunch: Take your pick from among various dining options in and near the Falls Plaza shopping center, which is across Haycock Rd from our afternoon classroom in Virginia Tech's Northern Virginia Center (7054 Haycock Rd in Falls Church, adjacent to West Falls Church Metro station).   You may leave your your extra belongings in the "resource center" conference room (first floor) before heading to lunch; rest rooms are nearby.  Staff in the resource center will be able to direct latecomers to the classroom.

Early afternoon (~1:30 pm): After lunch, Prof Quigley will lead a follow-up discussion at Virginia Tech Northern Virginia Center, room 325.  (HVAC work in the building led to a room change from room 207.)


We will discuss the ways different groups of Americans disputed the meaning and appropriate remembrance of the Civil War — arguing over the prominence of slavery as an issue and African Americans as actors; over the right way to remember rebel soldiers on the losing side; and over how to commemorate the sacrifices of those who survived and those who did not.


Victoria Sams, our NEH program officer, will attend Prof Quigley's session and interview participants as a group for ~45 minutes afterward.  The rest of the day is free.


Tuesday, July 19

Half- or full day at the Library of Congress, an easy walk from the Capitol South Metro station.  (See building floorplans and map.) 


If you expect to conduct research in LOC after the morning presentation, please read the Library's information for researchers regarding pre-registering for a reader identification card, restrictions on personal items you can carry into research areas (and location of check room for items you cannot), specialized reading rooms, and services.

Morning: Depart AU by 7:15 am.  Library of Congress doors open at 8:30 am.  Use the main entrance (Independence Ave) to LOC's Madison Building and convene at the Veterans History Project Information Center (LM-109) while other participants arrive and clear the metal detectors.  At 8:45 we will go as a group to a presentation space in the Jefferson Building.   En route, we will pass Reader Registration room where participants who wish to do LOC research later in the day can get get their Reader Cards.


In partnership with staff of the Veterans History Project, Virginia Tech historian David Cline will use his own work on African-American veterans of the Korean War to address how oral histories of veterans may contribute to historical understanding, community understanding, and veteran transitions. 

  • 9:15-10:00 am: VHP introduction/Q&A

  • 10:00-noon: Professor Cline

The session, which will draw both on readings and on the direct testimony of veterans, will help participants to learn: 1) more about the desegregation of the military—how and when it occurred and in what varieties — by listening to those whom it affected on the ground; 2) the important contributions of African American soldiers and sailors, long overlooked, to the military and to the Korean War; and 3) how the desegregation of the military and the individual experiences of African Americans at war connects to the history of the Civil Rights movement that both preceded and whose major judicial and legislative victories came soon after the war’s end.



Afternoon: Participants will be able to explore LOC resources on their own or do self-directed tours of veterans-related sites such as the Pension Bureau Building (now the National Building Museum), the many memorials, the Smithsonian, and the National Archives

Wednesday, July 20

Morning-early afternoon:  Return to Blacksburg with a stop at the National D-Day Memorial (Bedford, VA).


VT vans leave American University at 9 am for return leg.  Personal vehicles: from VT-Falls Church to our afternoon rendezvous in Bedford is roughly 200 miles, either via I-66/I-81/US 221 (through Harrisonburg) or via US 29/US 460 (through Charlottesville). 


Mid- to late afternoon (~2:30): At Bedford visitors' center community room, Eric Hodges will lead a discussion of relationships between veterans, civic participation, and the influence of veterans on U.S. domestic policies, followed by a visit to the D-Day Memorial.  

  • Bedford Welcome Center (816 Burks Hill Rd) is adjacent to the memorial at the interchange between US 460 and VA 122.

Required reading: 

  • National Conference on Citizenship, America’s Greatest Assets: How Military Veterans are Strengthening our Communities. 2015 Veterans Civic Health Index.  Free online.

Suggested readings:     

  • Michael Gambone, The Greatest Generation Comes Home. Ch. 3. VT copy.    

  • Suzanne Mettler, Soldiers to Citizens: The G.I. Bill and the Making of the Greatest Generation.  Ch 2.  VT copy.     

  • Mary Yonkman and John Bridgeland, All Volunteer Force: From Military to Civilian Service. Executive summary.  Free online.

Early evening: Check in at New Hall West.

Thursday, July 21

Morning:  Open time for informal discussions, individual projects.


Afternoon:  Mariana Grohowski will lead attendees through an examination of a variety of multimodal rhetorical works composed by women veterans. Participants will gain an understanding of some women veterans’ unique rhetorical contributions, which as a result, may help them to more effectively recognize women veterans’ unique perspectives, experiences, and contributions to military and national history.   Worksheets and readings/imagess are available online.


Pre-seminar viewing (highly suggested, especially Part I):

  • Ron Howard and Francis Martin. Unsung Heroes: The Story of America’s Female Patriots. VT DVD or streaming video.


Required reading:

  • Rancourt, "Women Veterans and Multi Modal Post-Traumatic Growth"

Suggested readings:

  • Lisa Bowden, ed., Powder: Writing by Women in the Ranks, from Vietnam to Iraq.  VT copy.

Forward and Preface 


Schneider, Falling In. 18 

Hurley, The Dead Iraqi Album. 56   

Branton, American Music. 86 

Hudson, Convoy Day. 38 


Vigil, Gear Up. 10

Katsanis, Listening for Poems. 112

McDonald, To the Survivors. 105 

Dean, Memorial Day Pow Wow. 109 

Hudson, Bosnia 1996. 61 

  • Lovella Calica, ed. After Action Review.  VT copy.


Vogt, Womb of the WoMD. 12

Feliciano, A Year of Secrets. 35

Murray, Eviscerated. 46

Pacanowski, Mission Accomplished. 91-2 

--- We are Not Your Heros, 151

Stone, These Boots. 97


Wagner, Women's Work. 42

Bateman, The Recruiter. 19

  • Lovella Calica, ed. Warrior Writers .  VT copy.


Slone, Daddy's Hand. 260 

--- Uncovering My Crime Scene. 260

--- An Unfit Effect. 262-3

Madelyn, (un)clothed and in her right mind. 268


Martin, Army Values Translated. 30

Little, Kabul Dolls. 60

McNeill, Break Free. 235

Shahn, Abandonment of an M-16. 42

Murray, A Day. 173

Madelyn, Remember. 90

Yates, Yellow Ribbon. 149

Shah, Armor Within. 161

Pacanowski, Assessing the Damage. 166
--- Strength in Vulnerability. 249

  • Grohowski, Mariana. “Moving Words, Words That Move: Language Practices Plaguing U.S. Servicewomen.” Women and Language, 37(1): 121-130. 2014.  Free preprint or in VT journal subscription.

  • Hart, D. Alexis. “Inquiring Communally, Acting Collectively: The Community Literacy of the Academy Women Ementor Portal and Facebook Group." VT journal subscription.


The Best Years of Our Lives. (Newman Library)  
Perhaps the paradigmatic American veterans’ motion picture, this film is also deeply situated in the aftermath of “the greatest generation,” who served in America’s least controversial war. What narratives, whether veteran or civilian, are left out? How much agency do veterans have in reintegration?  How would you imagine a 21st-century remake or sequel? VT DVD 
(See also VT copy of MacKinlay Cantor, Glory for Me.)  Moderator: Eric Hodges.

Friday, July 22

Seminar with Peter Molin, Jim Dubinsky, and Nathan Bell on veterans’ voices, authenticity, and authority in literature and music. We will examine questions such as: Who is a veteran? Is it the ninety-year-old wearing his uniform, saluting the flag at a Memorial Day Parade? The Iraq combat veteran? The Coastie working a computer over in Norfolk? The embedded journalist? The military contractor? What role(s) have veterans played in the folk music movement, particularly the folk music of protest?


  • Louise Amlong’s “Finding My Heart” (from Maxine Hong Kingston’s Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (VWVP):  pp. 4-15) paired with two Frost poems:  “Not to Keep” and “Mending Wall” (The Poetry of Robert Frost, pp. 230-231 and 33-34, respectively, in VT copy)

  • Shepherd Bliss’s “Sound Shy” (VWVP, pp. 19-27) paired with William James’s “The Moral Equivalent of War” from Standing Down (SDVT copy), pp. 98-110.

  • Walt Whitman’s “On Caregiving,” (SD, pp. 75-84) paired with Anne Simon Auger’s “A Piece of My Heart” (SD, pp. 337-345)

  • Tim O’Brien’s pieces from The Things They Carried,  (SD, pp. 309-328), paired with Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It,” (SD, pp. 328-330)

  • Wilfred Owen’s poems (SD, pp. 144-150) paired with Philip Caputo’s selection from A Rumor of War (SD, pp. 252-279)

  • Ernie Pyle’s “Reporting on the War in Tunisia” (SD, pp. 164-177) paired with Margaret Atwood’s “It is Dangerous to Read Newspapers,” (SD, pp. 249-252).


  • Roy Scranton,  “The Trauma Hero:  From Wilfred Owen to 'Redeployment' and 'American Sniper.'"  Free online

  • --- “'Star Wars' and the Fantasy of American Violence.”  Free online

  • Phil Klay,  “The Citizen Soldier:  Moral Risk and the Modern Military.”  Free online 

  • ---  “Redeployment,” in Scranton and Gallagher,  Fire and Forget  (VT ebook) or Klay, Redeployment. (VT copy)

  • Myrna Bein, “A Journey Taken With My Son.”  SD

  • Brian Turner, “Perimeter Watch.”  SD

  • David Finkel, excerpt from The Good Soldiers. SD

  • Benjamin Busch, excerpt from Dust to Dust.  SD

  • Siobhan Fallon, excerpt from You Know When the Men Are Gone.  SD

  • Brian Humphries, “Veterans.”  SD

  • Stephen Crane, “The Veteran.”  SD

  • Ernest Hemingway, “Soldier’s Home.”  SD


  • James Dubinsky. "Lighting a Lamp Against a Darkening Mental and Moral Vision"

  • ---. "War and Rumors of War in Frost."

  • Mariette Kalinowski,  “The Train,” in Gallagher and Scranton, Fire and Forget. VT ebook

  • Siobhan Fallon,  “Tips for a Smooth Transition,” from Fire and Forget.

  • Colby Buzzell,  “My Life Driving Uber as an Iraq Veteran with PTSD.”  Vice, June 7, 2015. Free online  

  • Stephen Crane,  “The Veteran” [entire] 1995.

  • Colby Buzzell,  “The Real Muslims of Irving Texas,” Esquire, March 2016. Free online  

  • Kristen Rouse, “America Must Stand for Freedom, Not Torture.”  Free online

  • Brian Turner,  “At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center,” “Sleeping in Dick Cheney’s Bed,” and “Wading Out,” in  Phantom Noise,​  VT copy

  • Peter Molin, "15-Month Adventure" blog



Monkey House concert featuring Nathan Bell and hosted by Jim Dubinsky.


Week 3: July 24-29


Monday, July 25

Morning: Opening the first of several sessions devoted to first-person, in-person accounts, CMSgt (Ret) Ken McQuiston discusses his career as a noncomissioned officer, father, husband, and recently transitioned veteran.  


Afternoon:  The seminar continues with Donna Musil and Heidi Nobles on the effects of war on military children. We will draw on Donna Musil’s extensive work with military children (including current dependents and those who are now adults) as well as Heidi Nobles’ interviews with former military children and research into “brat” issues to broaden our consideration of “Who counts as a veteran?” to include family members, especially the children who often spend their formative years in the military system and whose first career is that of the “military brat.” These experiences arguably shape military children into adults with veteran issues all their own and provide significant perspectives to the field of veterans studies.



  • Brats Without Borders.  All subsections from "The Tribe" and "PTSD & Trauma."  Free online

  • Mary Edwards Wertsch, Military Brats: Legacies of Childhood inside the Fortress. Introduction, ch 1 [pp. xvii-32]. VT copy

  • Mary R. Truscott, Brats.  Introduction, chs 1, 12, Afterword.  VT copy

  • Deborah Ellis, Off to War: Voices of Soldiers’ Children. Introduction and chs 1-3 [pp 1-30]VT copy

  • David C. Pollock and Ruth E. Van Reken, Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds. Chs 4, 14,  18 [pp. 39-61, 179-193, 239-247]. VT ebook

  • Anita Chandra, et al, “Children on the Homefront: The Experience of Children from Military Families.” VT journal subscription



Brats: Our Journey Home. (Newman Library)
How impermeable, how opaque are the barriers between military and civilian lives? What can — should — be learned from people, like military families living on base, whose lived experiences continually cross the boundaries?  After viewing this documentary and talking with the filmmaker, Donna Musil, reflect on the veteran-ness of, e.g., embedded journalists, military contractors, civilian auxiliaries, non-DOD government workers, or employees of non-governmental organizations, in peace as well as war.  VT DVD.  Moderators: Donna Musil, Heidi Nobles.

Tuesday, July 26

Seminar with Benjamin Busch on the cultural gap between U.S. military and civilian cultures, focusing on stories and a variety of genres (poetry, fiction, photography, and film) for making and communicating meaning from war experience.

Required readings: 

  • Archibald: At Dau Tien I Kill My Gun Crews' Dogs (poem)

  • Busch: Subtext (poem)

  • ---: Say Again Your Last (poem)

  • ---: Home Invasion (essay)

Recommended essays, commentaries, and interviews by Benjamin Busch (all free online): 

Wednesday, July 27

“Technologies in an Emerging Academic Field.” Seminar with Ed Fox and several of his colleagues on computational techniques in humanities research for veterans studies, discussing topics like collecting, archiving, indexing, analyzing, searching, browsing, and visualizing. We expect to give attendees hands-on experience working with “big data” on our Hadoop cluster, especially large collections of tweets and webpages.  Reflection on personal/professional uses of these technologies in one's research or teaching.

Thursday, July 28

Morning:  Amanda French, director of the research and informatics unit of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech, will lead off the morning with a workshop on resources for technologically less-intensive research and teaching.  This will include a primer on planning digital humanities projects on various scales.

At 10:30 am, Tyler Walters (director, SHARE: SHared Access Research Ecosystem, a nationwide project to permit discovery, retrieval, and application of research data and scholarly activities across repositories, without paywalls), will discuss progress on developments in the infrastructure for sharing scholarly and teaching resources that might help knit the distributed network of veterans studies scholars. 


Afternoon: Presentations of research/teaching/engagement projects.

On your own in the next few days: please complete an NEH online evaluation form for our institute — it's fourth from the bottom of the alphabetical list at   

Friday, July 29

Morning through (catered) lunch: Presentation of team projects.  Discussion of future collaborations, ideas for conference papers/panels to raise awareness in the established disciplines, and other follow-up activities.

Late morning: Peter Potter, former editor in chief of Cornell University Press, now director of publishing strategy in the Virginia Tech Libraries, will lead a conversation about 21st-century publishing realities and strategies for scholars in emergent, interdisciplinary scholarly domains.  

~2:30 pm: Adjourn.


Last words.  Please rejoin us for our 2017 Veterans in Society Conference: "Veterans, globalized."  April 20-22, Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center (downtown Roanoke, Va).  See 2017 call for papers.

Reminder.  Please complete the NEH online evaluation of our institute.


The Veterans in Society: Ambiguities and Representations 2016 summer institute for college faculty is a project of
Virginia Tech's Center for the Study of Rhetoric in Society and the University Libraries.  

The 2016 Veterans in Society summer institute has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this the institute or this website, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities nor Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

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