French’s course to shed light on how people remember the Holocaust

Dr. Sandra French, School of Communication

By Colton Rhea McConnell

Dr. Sandra French is set to instruct a rhetorical criticism course entitled “Critical Analysis of Public Discourse” which will focus on how individuals remember and commemorate the Holocaust.

The course, to be offered in spring 2017, will give students the opportunity to learn how to analyze any contemporary public issue. It will take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:30-1:45 p.m.

 “The course will start with an overview of World War II,” said French. “What the class will really look at is how the Holocaust and World War II exist in our memory today.”

Through this course, French will help students understand that almost everything that they have learned pertaining to the Holocaust, be it in museums, from monuments, movies, or books, have all been created from a particular perspective, and only shows one slice of history.

“The class will center on students doing the work of a rhetorical critic,” said French. “Each student will pick three D-Day anniversaries and look at the celebrations and commemorations that happened at Normandy and analyze those.”

Since the focus of the course depends on the professor, French is incorporating her own personal interests into the class.

“I have always been interested in World War II,” said French. “A few years ago we took our children to Europe on a World War II history tour. We booked a private historian to take us to all the D-Day beaches, educate the kids, and went to the American cemetery at Normandy.”

At the end of that day, French and her family, at the request of her 8-year-old daughter, visited a German cemetery, which sparked the interest in her research.

“There was a very stark contrast in the way the cemetery was laid out compared to the one on the top of the hill at Normandy,” said French. “All of a sudden I thought to myself, what do German people do if they had family members who served in World War II, and how do you remember somebody who was on the wrong side of history.”

French last taught Critical Analysis of Public Discourse two years ago. During sabbatical last spring, she had the opportunity to travel to Berlin, Germany on a fellowship with 20 other professors from all over the world, who teach Holocaust-related classes. As a result of what she learned from the fellowship, French decided to modify the course from the last time she taught it.

The course will also include the opportunity to have a Skype call with a Holocaust survivor and an optional field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum located in Washington D.C.

Dec 8, 2016
School of Communication