WWII Takes Over The Pietist Schoolman

At least, that’s how it might feel for the next few weeks… Some explanation:

Next January, for Bethel’s three-week “interim” term, I’ll be debuting a new course on the Second World War (HIS231L), designed to alternate J-terms with a long-standing class on the First World War (HIS230L) that I’ve converted into a travel course in Europe. HIS231L has been a long time in coming, mused about in full hearing of Band of Brothers-loving students almost every one of my first ten years in Arden Hills. Beyond the evident student demand for such a course, it fills an obvious hole between the WWI course and another popular one that I teach on the Cold War, and it lets me hearken back to some things I studied in graduate school.

But because I spent the summer creating and teaching a fairly ambitious new online version of Bethel’s venerable Christianity and Western Culture survey, I haven’t had any time to think ahead to January. So as soon as my grades were submitted (and with the gracious permission of my impossibly patient, bewildered, and/or bemused wife), I packed the car and set off on a three-day tour of war and veterans memorials in southern Minnesota.

Hastings, InfernoAlong the way I listened to Ken Burns read Geoffrey Ward’s book version of his WWII documentary, The War, and read Max Hastings’ Inferno and Thomas Saylor’s oral history of Minnesotans Remembering the Good War. It was good to get out of town and away from my computer in any event, but immersing myself in the war in this way did succeed in sparking some thoughts about how to teach it.

And before we’re too far into a new semester, I hope to share at least some of those reflections and plans here at The Pietist Schoolman. I don’t expect to blog day by day through this new course like I did with the travel version of the WWI course, but I will have a brief series on how WWII has been commemorated (akin to another WWI series of mine) and some other one-off posts.

Meanwhile, you can sample some of my earlier writing on that war:

Read the first post in my new series on the commemoration of WWII>>


10 thoughts on “WWII Takes Over The Pietist Schoolman

    1. I’ve found that I don’t tend to complete book series that I start, but I’m sure it will inspire posts here and there. And I have been thinking about writing something on the (underappreciated?) skill of historical synthesis…

      1. I would love that. Historical synthesis is entirely undervalued in academia. If done well, it allows us to see the contours of the historical narrative as well as gaps in the historiography/areas open for new research. Plus, it is very enjoyable to read.

  1. Great. I have been listening to audiobooks about WWII for the last few years while doing my dissertation on Karl Barth and quite a bit of study of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I recommend Ken Burns WWII series and Band of Brothers. Like Miles, I listened like Miles to Retribution by Hastings–the last chapter of which he becomes quite evaluative which is interesting. These are the WWII books I have listened to and I would particularly recommend the first one “Unbroken.” The rest are ok.
    – Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (2010),
    – With Wings Like Eagles: A History of the Battle of Britain by Michael Korda (Jan 6, 2009),
    – Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 (Vintage) by Max Hastings (Mar 10, 2009),
    – A Higher Call: An Incredible True Story of Combat and Chivalry in the War-Torn Skies of World War II by Adam Makos and Larry Alexander (Dec 19, 2012),
    – Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (May 14, 2013),
    – In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson (May 1, 2012),
    Gandhi & Churchill: The Epic Rivalry that Destroyed an Empire and Forged Our Age by Arthur Herman (Apr 28, 2009),
    – Lost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff (Apr 24, 2012),
    – Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission by Hampton Sides (May 7, 2002),
    – Franklin and Winston: An Intimate Portrait of an Epic Friendship by Jon Meacham (Oct 12, 2004).

    I also loved: The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today by Thomas E. Ricks (Oct 30, 2012), but it has only a bit on WWII. (It says that the quality of leadership by generals has waned since WWII where generals were relieved of their duties if they were not performing).

    I also think of the films Life is Beautiful, Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan, and most recently Valkyrie as impacting me. Perhaps every generation has their WWII movies.

    I am now here at Bethel but desperately working on getting my syllabi ready for class but couldn’t resist commenting. I will put my info here:

    Andrew D. Rowell
    Instructor of Ministry Leadership
    Bethel Seminary
    3949 Bethel Dr
    Saint Paul, MN 55112
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/AndyRowell
    Blog: http://www.andyrowell.net/

    1. I’m actually not as much of a WWII buff as I might seem, but remarkably, I have read most of the books on your list, Andy: most recently Double Cross. I started Unbroken on audio book on the last leg of my recent tour, but only got as far as Berlin 1936, then the CD started skipping. I’ll have to try again sometime — popular history about America-of-the-1930s/1940s-plus-sports is a pretty narrow subgenre, but Hillenbrand is the best at it I’ve read.

    1. Found it, Andy. Sorry about that – I used to check the Spam folder just in case anything got caught there accidentally, but it just got to be too cumbersome a task… Conversely, obvious spam continues to slip through the filter and wind up in the moderation queue (which hopefully answers the next question).

      1. Ok. I agree with deleting spam and inappropriate comments but I think you win points with your commenters when they can instantly see that their comments go through rather than having to wait and then check back later to see if their comments went through.

        And that is really amazing all of the places you went in Minnesota–checking WWII connections.

  2. It’s just an initial screen, Andy. Once the first comment has been moderated, all subsequent comments (on that post or any other) go through automatically. (Unless you use a different sign-in, I guess.)

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