American Culture in the 1970s

American Culture in the 1970s

American Culture in the 1970s

American Culture in the 1970s

Synopsis

The 1970s was one of the most culturally vibrant periods in American history. This book discusses the dominant cultural forms of the 1970s - fiction and poetry; television and drama; film and visual culture; popular music and style; public space and spectacle - and the decade's most influential practitioners and texts: from Toni Morrison to All in the Family, from Diane Arbus to Bruce Springsteen, from M. A. S. H. to Taxi Driver and from disco divas to Vietnam protesters. In response to those who consider the seventies the time of disco, polyester and narcissism, this book rewrites the critical engagement with one of America's most misunderstood decades. Key Features
• Focused case studies featuring key texts and influential writers, artists, directors and musicians
• Chronology of 1970s American Culture
• Bibliographies for each chapter and a general bibliography on 1970s Culture
• 14 black-and-white illustrations

Excerpt

A number of problems immediately occur when one attempts to conceptualise 'the seventies'. The first is the apparent arbitrariness of 'the decade' as a meaningful periodising marker. A major historian of the 1970s, Bruce J. Schulman, is aware of this problem, admitting: 'It is easy to mock the overwrought chronologies that lay such heavy weight on years that end with zero.' Others would appear to agree. Why privilege 'decade markers', Stephen Rachman asks, when equally we 'take our temporal cures from political transitions like changes in administration'? Music historian Greil Marcus is most dismissive of the arbitrary 'decade marker':

As the formal end of the 1960s approached, in some circles dread over
the supposed event was as great as the nagging feeling that upon the
dawning of the first day of the year 2000 the world will be rendered
unrecognizable, assuming it still exists. The notion was that as the clock
struck midnight on January 31, 1969, some spirit of invention and resis
tance peculiar to the time would magically disappear…

In the light of such scepticism over the value of placing interpretive weight on years beginning or ending in 0, some cultural critics and historians have opted for other strategies. At one extreme, for instance, Stephen Paul Miller takes his cue from Foucault, breaking down the decade into smaller components: 'Michel Foucault's The Order of Things (1967) uses the term “episteme” to describe an era's prevailing mindset, its epistemological horizons … Epistemes graduate through micro-periods without losing their dominant discursive characteristics. For instance, roughly speaking, I micro-periodise the 1970s into 1970–1, 1972–4, 1975–7, and 1978–9'. Thus, while still paying fealty to the 0-ending 'decade marker', Miller places more significance on particular . . .

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