History | Nuclear Weapons in American Culture
A379 | 17065 | Linenthal


Above class open to undergraduates and EDUC MA’s only

In 1946, American poet Herman Hagedorn published “The Bomb That Fell
on America,” his response to the transformations brought about by
the beginning of the nuclear age. The atomic bomb, he wrote: “made
the earth, that seemed so solid, Main Street, that seemed so well
paved, a kind of vast jelly, quivering and dividing underfoot.” This
course will focus, in historian Paul Boyer’s words, on
the “continuing cycles of activism and apathy” in American culture’s
engagement with nuclear weapons. From the beginning, “The Bomb,” as
it was called, symbolized catastrophe without boundaries—even the
apocalyptic end of the world imagined for centuries—and it also
symbolized the conquest of nature and ultimate protection. Through
lecture, discussion, reading, film, and music, we will investigate
the symbolic history of “The Bomb” in our culture.

Readings will include: Paul Boyer, By the Bomb’s Early Light:
American Thought and Culture at the Dawn of the Atomic Age;  Sven
Lindqvist, A History of Bombing; A. G. Mojtabai, Blessed Assurance:
At Home With the Bomb in Amarillo, Texas;  and Allen Winkler, Life
Under a Cloud: American Anxiety About the Atom. Readings will also
include selections from: Paul Boyer, Fallout: A Historian Reflects
on America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons; Elaine
Tyler May, Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era;
Edward T. Linenthal and Tom Engelhardt, eds., History Wars: The
Enola Gay and other Battles for the American Past. (Further readings
will be listed in the course outline.) Films will include: “On the
Beach,” “The Atomic Café,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Day  After,” “The
Day After Trinity,” and “Hellfire.”