In 1965, Paul Potter designated "the system" as the principle antagonist of the fledgling New Left. This term, and the assumptions behind it, capaciously synthesized the many ills that Potter and others hoped to redress; it also revealed, the authors suggest, a conception of power particularly congenial to the description and analysis of culture. The authors introduce each of the following essays with this in mind, detailing their shared interest in the articulation of a cultural politics specific to the 1960s.
Baldwin, James, 1924- -- Political and social views.
African Americans -- Civil rights.
United States -- Race relations.
This essay charts the intersecting relations between social and historical accounts of the nature of American racial inequality in Baldwin's essays and in the broader discourse of American civil rights in the 1960s. It maintains that the history of racial inequality achieves a new political salience over the course of the 1960s, that it achieves this salience because it serves as a proxy for those features of racial disadvantage deriving from something other than the state's authority, and that its rise mirrors the rise of a widespread anxiety that legal initiatives might be unable to eliminate American racial inequality.
Education, Higher -- Political aspects -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
This essay uses the scandal surrounding the authorship of Forrest Carter's The Education of Little Tree, discovered to have been written by white supremacist activist and speechwriter, Asa Carter, as an occasion to examine the shifting relation between American education and the political sphere in the 1960s and seventies, demonstrating how the figure of the Native American became a symbolic vehicle of the period's increasing inability to decide where the boundaries of higher educational institutions and practices should be drawn, and of the confusing directionality of politics conducted in the educational domain.
This essay traces the development of Allen Ginsberg's poetics in the sixties, in particular, his use of Hindu and Buddhist chant as a theoretical basis for his writing. Tracing this development reveals how Ginsberg synthesizes an anti-representational theory of writing borrowed from William Burroughs with a conception of the poet as supernaturally empowered. This synthesis in Ginsberg's work is set next to popular religious movements of the sixties that, like Ginsberg's poetry, turned to meaningless or empty language as a privileged site of supernatural power.
Killens, John Oliver, 1916- Cotillion; or, One good bull is half the herd.
Black nationalism in literature.
Masculinity in literature.
This essay reconsiders the Black Power movement's cultural politics by arguing that these advocates suffered from the contradictions and anxieties produced as they legitimated a highly performative mode of masculine speech as a cornerstone of their nationalism. Framing John Oliver Killens's career as an especially keen extension of these tensions, the essay explores how he endorsed the performative turn even as his novel The Cotillion tracked out its inevitable limitations. Placing Killens's work alongside that of his contemporaries, the essay paints a portrait of a nationalism that was deeply divided by the very agenda that it created.
This essay examines the pervasive countercultural investment in authenticity by looking at three intellectuals—the political philosopher John Rawls, the sociologist David Riesman, and the poet George Oppen—who came of age before the sixties and shared a distinct ambivalence toward the counterculture's later refusal of universalism, particularly its existentialist tendency to derive authenticity from the atomizing experience of alienation. Politically, all three were social democrats who believed in the socially regulative necessity of individual autonomy, that is, in the premises of a Kantian liberalism. Riesman and Oppen were particularly concerned to reveal the relevance and value of contemplative autonomy in the face of calamity and catastrophe. Theirs was an engaged poetics, critical of the political order even as it depended on a universalizing version of the Kantian sublime.
Sade, marquis de, 1740-1814 -- Appreciation -- History -- 20th century.
In the 1960s, both high theory and popular culture used the Marquis de Sade to link concerns about violence and social repression with an investment in sexual repression in the psychoanalytic sense. While Sade's writings suggest the incompatibility of complete sexual freedom with political emancipation, this apparent contradiction was meant to vanish within a framework of general liberation. I argue that the idea of general liberation failed to account for the increasing differentiation of society. In the case of Sade in particular, the elision of the distinction between intimacy and sexual pleasure allowed—and continues to enable—the notion that sexual acts translate into liberationist politics rather than creating potentially insoluble social conflicts.
Feminism and literature -- History -- 20th century.
Literature -- Women authors -- History and criticism.
This essay examines major texts of 1970s women's and feminist fiction in terms of themes of sex oppression and systems of property which served as the nodal point for post-1945 sexual liberation theory and fiction. Where Beatnik writers like Jack Kerouac and Diane di Prima had insisted that free love could only flourish in a milieu of freedom from property and possessiveness, a new generation of 1970s writers came to abandon the notion that freedom would involve a choice between one system of property and another, and instead began to idealize spaces of removal from those systems. Charting this movement, this essay examines the property/sex oppression nexus across a range of texts—women's fiction and poetry; feminist theory; and consciousness-raising manifestos—written from 1970 to 1975.
American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
Canadian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
Draft resisters in literature.
This article argues that the tendency of political rhetoric in the U.S. to condemn Vietnam-era draft dodgers has obscured a more complex understanding of their place in North American culture of the 1960s. In an effort to understand the affective registers of draft resistance, it looks to literary representations of the draft dodger produced between the late 1960s and the present by both U.S. and Canadian authors. A consistent theme running through these representations that they use the politics of romance and sexuality to work through the politics of draft resistance and the act of "going to Canada."
American literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
New Left -- United States.
Toward the end of the 1960s, the New Left and the counterculture developed a libertarian theory of politics that emphasized symbolic action and self-realization. A concomitant suspicion of formal political institutions and a turn to cultural politics have since become common to intellectual discourse within the humanities. This essay argues against these attitudes, while tracing them from the protest movements of the late sixties to contemporary fiction and literary theory. The authors conclude by detailing the strong affinities between this vision of radicalism and the interests of professional labor within the present-day university.