War and Pop Culture course explores conflicts in fiction

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War and Pop Culture course explores conflicts in fiction

Professor Jason Morrissette
giving a lecture in his War and Pop Culture class.

Professor Jason Morrissette giving a lecture in his War and Pop Culture class.

Patrick Breeden

Professor Jason Morrissette giving a lecture in his War and Pop Culture class.

Patrick Breeden

Patrick Breeden

Professor Jason Morrissette giving a lecture in his War and Pop Culture class.

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Marshall University Professor Jason Morrissette’s War and Pop Culture course looks into what pop culture media, such as video games, movies and comics, have to say about war.

Morrissette said much of the course focuses on understanding what assumptions pop culture makes concerning war.

“A lot of [the course] comes down to maybe less thinking about accuracy in some cases and more trying to unpack the ideological assumptions that are embedded in a lot of this work we are going to be examining,” Morrissette said.

He said the course will look at how media depicted past and present wars along with thematic studies of metaphoric views of war in fiction.

The course began with a look into how James Bond films depict the Cold War. Later materials will cover how video games have shaped the public’s perception of war among other topics.

Students will read materials such as “World War Z,” “Starship Troopers” and “Cold War Fantasies.” Two movie essays on “All Quiet on the Western Front,” “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” “Starship Troopers” and “Wag the Dog” are also required.

Morrissette said the Stanley Kubrick film, “Dr. Strangelove,” is the first piece of pop culture that someone should experience.

A lot of [the course] comes down to maybe less thinking about accuracy in some cases and more trying to unpack the ideological assumptions that are embedded in a lot of this work we are going to be examining.”

— Jason Morrissette, Marshall University professor

“It treats [nuclear] war as a farce more so than a threat with serious consequences,” Morrissette said. “It’s strange to see [nuclear war] presented as a dark comedy, but I think there’s so much impact there both about politics and war during the Cold War as well as lessons to learn today.”

Political science professor Jamie Warner said special topics classes help build high level skills such as critical thinking.

“Classes like this allow students to practice their thinking and writing skills, which they then can use to analyze anything,” Warner said. “These are very high level skills that require lots and lots of practice. Learning how to read difficult material, think critically and write clearly are the same whether you’re studying Congress or video games and they are skills that can be put to use no matter what a student does after graduation.”

War and Pop Culture is part of a growing list of specialty political science courses taught by Morrissette at Marshall. His Politics of the Undead course uses zombies, vampires and other creatures of night as metaphors to explore Marxism and other forms of political thought.

This is the first semester where War and Pop Culture has been offered, and Morrissette said the course will be offered again in the future if students enjoy the materials and react positively.

Morrissette said he has future plans for additional specialty courses, but he is uncertain how to implement them at this time due to technical restraints.

Morrissette is planning a politics in video games course that would require students to play assigned video games.

Patrick Breeden can be contacted at [email protected]

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