Vietnam: Revolution in Full Circle (M. Levine)




Dr. Marilyn Levine

Lewis Clark State College

Office Hours: Thursday 10:30-12:00 p.m.

Office: Spalding 216

Friday 1:00-2:30 p.m., or by appointment

Phone: x2270


Courses on Viet Nam have become increasingly popular in the United States during the latter half of the 1980s. Why is a country that as the 1990s begin has no diplomatic relations with the United States, that is located in a remote geographic area of the globe at all of interest to American students? For most it is a matter of growing up with the myths of an Indochina war, and the idea that the Viet Nam war has shaped our modern social and political values. Although recognizing these rationales, this course will not focus on American involvement in Viet Nam. Instead the approach to this course is to look at the whole context of Vietnamese history and culture, to be recognized in its own right, without a teleological bias. The historical fact is that Viet Nam has survived a whole series of invasions and conquests throughout almost half of the last 2500 years. Most courses on Viet Nam have an underlying question of why did a small, backwards country defeat the most technologically advanced nation in the world? This course has an underlying question of what is the Vietnamese identity? This question will allow us a broader perspective on significant questions of twentieth century ideologies, philosophical areas of convergence and divergence between East and West, and the historical processes of revolution and anticolonialism. These questions are not just of intellectual interest, but also apply to individual value systems and key ethical questions in a complex world.


Nguyen Du, A Tale of Kieu
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Moon Bamboo
Alexander Woodside, Vietnam on the Chinese Model Ngo Vinh Long, Before the Revolution
Jeffrey Race, War Comes to Long An
James Freeman, Hearts of Sorrow

Optional Reading:
James Harrison, The Endless War
Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers



January 14
Viet Nam : An Introduction 
Vietnamese Physical and Cultural Bases

January 21
Reading: A Tale of Kieu pp. xix-105 [Outline Due]

January 28
Early Historical Period
The Chinese Conquest of Viet Nam
Reading: A Tale of Kieu pp. 107-167 [Student Led Discussion]

February 4
The First War of Independence
Unity & Disintegration
February 11
The French Colonial Conquest
Reading: Vietnam on the Chinese Model ch. 1, 2, 5 [Outline Due]

February 18
Anticolonialism: The Emergence of Ideologies and Movements

February 25
The Japanese Occupation and the Coming of the August Revolution Reading: Before the Revolution, Short Stories, [Land Tenure section optional] [Student Led Discussion]

March 4
The First Indochina War

March 11 
First Draft of Paper Due [Optional]

March 18
Communism, Confucianism & Catholicism: Ho Chi Minh & Ngo Dinh Diem

March 25
The Second Indochina War
Reading: War Comes to Long An ch. 1, 3 [skim]; 4, 5 [read] [Outline due]

March 28 - April 2 SPRING BREAK

April 8
American Counterculture and War Resistance Reading: The Moon Bamboo "The Stone Boy" "A Lone Pink Fish" [Student Led Discussion]

April 15
Post-War Viet Nam: Revolution in Full Circle Reading: Hearts of Sorrow Parts II, V, VI [Outline due]

April 22

April 29

May 6



Students will be responsible for a Course Paper [between 12-15 pages] (40% of grade), Discussion Outlines (40% of grade) Quizzes (10% of grade) and Discussion and Participation (10%).



In addition to grasping a broader factual understanding of Viet Nam, and developing skills such as thinking and writing, the 351 seminars are designed for the clarification of values. The study of Viet Nam offers several opportunities for this, because the focus of the course is on the question of identity, and numerous primary course themes deal with individual, societal and historical processes that are relevant to all individuals.


Skills and Cognitive Competencies

-Ability to think, discuss and write critically and analytically.

-Ability to understand the historical process.

-Ability to assimilate information about non-Western societies.

Values Clarification Competencies

-Ability to integrate scholastic studies with personal value systems.

-Ability to distinguish different social systems in the world and appreciate their differing value systems.

-Ability to empathize with non-Western cultures.

-Ability to comprehend the role of ideology in the 20th century.


This is a highly interactive class. Therefore, attendance in class is required and will be part of the participation grade. Written assignments are reduced by one grade for each day they are late, up to 50%.


Students are encouraged to make use of office hours. 


Step One

     Definitions: List three to five words of which you are unsure.

     Look them up and write down the definitions of them.

Step Two

     Course Main Theme: Select two of the Primary Course Themes,

     and discuss how the reading illuminates that theme.  Design a

     question that you would ask for each.

Step Three

     Integration with Other Materials: Write down the meaning or

     usefulness the material has for understanding other concepts

     and materials. Indicate what other ideas the material

     substantiates, contradicts, or amplifies.

Step Four

     Application: Write down how the material can apply to your own

     life situation - past, present or future.  What implications

     does the material hold for your own intellectual pursuits or


Step Five

     Evaluation: Write down your reactions and evaluation of the


[Adapted from Hill, Wm. Fawcett, Learning Thru Discussion (Sage Publications, 1969)]



The nature of Vietnamese identity

The role of Confucian culture in shaping Vietnamese society

The issue of morality and leadership

The issue of organization and leadership

The issue of ideology What is ideology? Is there a difference between uprisings of superstition and those motivated by a coherent revolutionary ideology? What is the linkage between ideology and organization?

The issue of imperialism In the Vietnamese context, this has been a force of anticolonialism and on the reverse side, a positive fight to acquire territory.

The role of guerrilla warfare Is guerrilla warfare the only successful form of revolution for the 21st century?

The issue of terror and violence

The impacts of religion Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao, etc.

The issue of revolution, social justice & economic inequality The idea that the most advanced revolutions have occurred in Asia. If so, why?