E 324 • Poets and Punks in British Culture After 1945
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
E 376L (Topic 7: Poets and Punks) may not also be counted. Will Not Count Toward a Major in English!!
The postwar Age of Affluence elicited very different reactions in English literature and popular culture. As if to fathom the ostensibly new society, English writers turned to examination of popular culture to a historically unique extent, leaving an exorbitant, though largely hostile record. 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. The very opulence of the Mods, for example, in Swinging London in the 1960s, indirectly conveyed the irony of their dead-end jobs. 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.
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. The realm of art, I will argue, can indeed be drawn into everyday life with progressive results. The course will be concerned with history, literature, music, criticism, popular culture theory, and sociology--the fields that have made up "cultural studies."
Three six- to seven-page essays, 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
Sociology: Dick Hebdige, Subculture: The Meaning of Style