May 13, 2013, 1:38 pm
Truth, we’re told, is the first casualty of war. But as I hunker in my office bunker, the dull thud of history term papers landing on my desk, columns of sleep-deprived and anxiety-ridden students trudging past the door, I’m convinced that truth is also the first casualty of undergraduate paper writing. It is not only the historical truths trampled in the mangled and muddied papers written by my students. More insidiously, a deeper truth also suffers. Only tatters remain of the contract, implicit but immemorial, that teachers will grade student papers fairly and honestly. This shared conviction, that the students’ level of writing can be raised only if the teacher levels with them, now seems a historical artifact.
At the start of the spring semester, as with every semester, I told my students that while this was a history course, the most important thing I could teach them in 15…
December 21, 2012, 10:39 am
In the beginning is torture. We confront a man being slowly and systematically brutalized by fellow men. The victim’s gaze is flattened, his body is battered, and his dignity is crushed. All the while the torturer regards his work with an unperturbed matter-of-factness, succeeded by satisfaction when the victim finally offers information critical to a nation’s security.
Zero Dark Thirty? No. The Battle of Algiers.
Nearly half a century divides the making of the two movies. (The Battle of Algiers was released in 1966, but due to resistance in official circles, was not shown in France until 1971.) More than the passage of time, to be sure, divides the two films. One is (deliberately) grainy black and white, the other color (as well as, toward the end, an otherworldly greenish-yellow); one is based on a war, the other on a manhunt; one was made by an Italian resistance fighter a…