E 324 • Poets and Punks: British Culture After 1945
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
The postwar Age of Affluence elicited very different reactions in English literature and popular culture. The anger of the Angry Young Men, such as John Osborne, resulted in large part from their frustrated uncertainty over what was happening to the class structure. Was the working class really disappearing? In this respect the myth of Affluence seems to have befuddled the literary. On the other hand, as the English field of "cultural studies" has shown, working-class youth subcultures, through an ensemble of commodities and musical allegiances, exposed quite successfully the limits of Affluence. When the punk subculture arose in 1976, as a confirmation finally in popular culture of the continuing existence of social misery and the working class, a new relationship with literature was struck by a radical bohemian avant-garde. Graham Greene was placed in the service of the Sex Pistolsto the considerable illumination of both.
This course in postwar English culture will concern the ways in which different types of cultural productions and activities succeed and fail to penetrate the veil of popular myths like "Affluence." I want to raise questions about challenging authoritarian ideology in our own period, but my particular aim is to inject volatility into conventional notions of the hierarchy of high and mass culture. The postwar fiction, poetry, drama, and music studied in the course will lead on to an England far removed from traditional "literary landscape": the seaside amusements of Brighton, the sleazy Soho of Absolute Beginners, and the Carnaby Street that embraced Clockwork Orange (quite subversively, given the Tory pedantry at the core of the novel). Above all I want to raise the issue of what a truly radical, avant-garde practice involves, and what forms it might take.
Three five- to seven-page papers, first two to be revised 80%
Attendance and Participation 20%
Fiction: Colin MacIness, Absolute Beginners; Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange; Graham Greene, Brighton Rock; Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
Drama: John Osborne, Look Back in Anger; Edward Bond, Saved; Trevor Griffiths, Oi for England
Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style