Nixon burning: The antiestablishment turn in 1970s american political writing

Seed, D
(2018) Nixon burning: The antiestablishment turn in 1970s american political writing. In: American Literature in Transition, 1970-1980. , 262 - 280.

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© Cambridge University Press 2018. Two of the most famous commentators on the 1970s, Tom Wolfe and Christopher Lasch, appeared to agree in diagnosing a new character type for the decade, that of an individual in retreat from politics. Wolfe's “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening” and Lasch's The Culture of Narcissism (1976 and 1979 respectively) suggest a self-obsessed withdrawal from the concerns of public life. Both their arguments and the influence they have borne over the perception of the decade they have helped define overlook any number of literary and popular works that were fueled by indignation over political malpractice and by a constructive skepticism toward official accounts of reality. The 1970s were a politically tumultuous decade, from the end of the Vietnam War to the Watergate crisis that cost Richard M. Nixon his presidency to revelations that the CIA had intervened in the governance of other countries. These scandals provided the major reference points for fiction and nonfiction alike that explored American politics, and yet they were events that challenged the conventional forms of representation. Soon after Watergate Norman Mailer reflected that “it is painful…to relinquish one's hope for a narrative.” In varying degrees this difficulty is experienced by all writers of the 1970s attempting to locate meaningful connections in their material. The complex legacy of the 1960s leads them to repeatedly adopt stances in opposition to the political establishment, a general tendency which can be observed in two bestselling novels by David Morrell and James Grady. David Morrell's First Blood (1972) is a displaced Vietnam War novel with the action transposed on to a small Southern American town. Although now inexorably associated with Sylvester Stallone and the series of increasingly cartoonish sequels derived from its original 1982 movie adaptation, the novel itself squarely reflects the era of its publication, as opposed to the gung-ho Reagan decade the films serviced. The surname-only Rambo – the movies would give him a first name, John – is a traumatized Green Beret veteran whose captivity at the hands of the North Vietnamese has been so traumatic that at times he confuses locations. Morrell's political context was the ongoing protests against the war, and he extended the scope of these protests by literally bringing the war home to America. His planning was clear and oppositional.

Item Type: Book Section
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 26 Jan 2018 08:33
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2019 05:10
DOI: 10.1017/9781316584484.018
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