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Steven Hoelscher, Chair Burdine 437, Mailcode B7100, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-7277

Fall 2006

AMS 311s • The Seventies in America: Malaise, Revolution, Reaction, and Sleaze-W

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
29850 MW
3:00 PM-4:30 PM
par 103

Course Description

This course revisits the reputation of a decade in which, according to the title of one of the period's survey texts, "it seemed like nothing happened." To the contrary, many recent commentators have claimed the 1970s as a pivotal moment in American and world history. We will explore the contours of a national dialectic of limits (oil embargo, Vietnam, Jimmy Carters sweaters, Iranian hostage crisis, stagflation) and excess (disco, the Symbionese Liberation Army, pop psychology, blockbuster films, the compulsive artifice of Seventies style) that characterizes the decade, both in the historical record and in public memory. It is not, by any means, that the Seventies moment is one more marked by ambiguities and ambivalences than other historical moments, but these years did witness a reckoning of sorts for the sense of possibility opened by civil rights activism, feminism, and other social movements in the postwar period. We will engage the open-ended questions regarding the ways in which these possibilities were both advanced and constricted by the political, economic, and cultural milieus of the 1970s.

We will make extensive use of popular culture as a lens for making sense of the period. In doing so, this course seeks to build a cultural studies toolkit through which we will study not simply the revolving door of self-conscious styles that preen themselves in the decade's bright spotlight, but we will learn how to read those styles to determine what they mean and how they mean on the broader stage of American history.


Bruce Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. David Frum, How We Got Here: The 70's, The Decade that Brought You Modern Life. Shelton Waldrep, ed. The Seventies: The Age of Glitter in Popular Culture. Selected readings and films


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