Contemporary Europe

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HIS 3045: Spring 2013 Contemporary Europe : First writing Assignment Answer ONE of the following questions. Your essay should be typed, one-and-a-half or double spaced, and you should provide a title-cover sheet for my general comments. If you use any internet sites give the appropriate web-address. The essays should be roughly 6-8 pages in length. The essays are due in class on March 16th [no exceptions after that date]. 1 Write a brief essay about Heda Kovaly’s memoir Under a Cruel Star (1986). Use the book as a means to comment on changes that occurred in Eastern Europe during and after the Second World War. Think about Heda’s experiences during the Nazi occupation, her critical assessment of the way that occupation shaped Czech society and attitudes, and how she and Rudolf viewed the situation in the early postwar period, their hopes and fears. Using either the Hitchcock text (or Tony Judt’s Postwar –we have a copy in the Library) and anything else you wish, explain how Rudolf Margolius became a victim of a larger crackdown in Eastern Europe with its origins both in the deepening Cold War and divisions within the Soviet sphere of influence. 2. Werner Fassbinder’s The Marriage of Maria Braun (1979) and Karel Reisz’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (1960) both deal (albeit in very different ways) with the 1950s and with increased affluence and material goods. Fassbinder’s film focuses on a woman, Maria Braun, reflecting a growing awareness in the 1970s of the role of women in the immediate postwar years and during the so-called “economic miracle” [Wirtschaftswunder]; we witness, for example, the psychic cost of Maria’s drive to succeed, her view of marriage, and her desire to remain in control as she moves between two men. Reisz’s film focuses upon Arthur Seaton, a disaffected worker, whose aggressive masculinity, sense of going nowhere, and anger at the society around him is often displaced onto his relationships with women. Write an essay examining the way these two films depict West German and British society in the 1950s. What are the chief themes that Fassbinder and Reisz wish to convey about the two societies; how would you interpret the final scene of each movie? [Both films are on reserve in the Purchase Library] 3. “Within three years of the end of World War II Communist parties in East Europe were well on the way to consolidating their political power in the different countries. But then between 1948 and Stalin’s death in 1953 the politics of these states were thrown into turmoil by a broad purge which included mass arrests and imprisonments and also the denunciation, trials, and punishment of former Communist leaders.” From your reading of Hitchcock, The Struggle for Europe (or Tony Judt’s Postwar ; the most relevant sections are in chaps 5 and 6)) and class lectures write a brief essay summarizing your understanding of why this occurred. Examine Stalin’s motivation, the internal factional rivalries within East European states, and the way that the growing dispute between Stalin and Tito shaped these purges. 4. In the period from 1945-1962 the French and British governments were engaged in a series of counterinsurgency military campaigns: In Indo-China (Vietnam) and Algeria in the case of France; in Palestine, Malaya, the Suez Canal zone, Kenya, and Cyprus in the case of Great Britain. The largest and most terrible of these conflicts was the Algerian War (1954-62), although it was not officially recognized as a “war” until decades later. Write an essay that examines the Algeran conflict through the texts I have assigned: Camus, “The Guest” (“The Adulterous Woman” if you have time); Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo film); Evans, “Rehabilitating the Traumatized war Veteran”; and Prost “The Algerian War in Collective Memory”. My lecture will give you an overview of the war. Explain why the conflict was so difficult to resolve; the dramatic and lasting impact of the war on French politics (my lecture and Hitchcock); and some of the reasons for the nation’s collective amnesia post-1962.
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