History | Elvis, Dylan and Postwar America
A379 | 11803 | Bodnar


A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA’s only

World War II caused Americans to feel good about themselves and
optimistic about their futures.  Their victory over evil regimes in
the world left many of them proud and satisfied with their sense of
who they thought they were—a people who were patriotic, loving,
family –oriented and fair-minded. Most of them were not prepared to
question the traditional authorities that governed their lives and
had helped them win the war.   The events of the postwar period,
however, upset optimistic visions of the future and the faith many
had in those who ran their government, their families and their Cold
War struggle against the Soviet Union. Challenges to traditional
authorities and views that inferred that war was inevitable, that
fathers knew best, and that white supremacy  was natural began to
appear everywhere in the tumultuous decades of the 1950s and 1960s.
A nation that was generally united in war in the forties soon saw
its adolescents mounting critiques of traditional values and sexual
norms and its racial minorities rising up in anger.  The pattern
started slowly in the fifties but exploded by the sixties into a
full revolt.  This course traces the rise of this culture of dissent
and revolt against traditional authority by focusing on the rise of
two key figures in mass culture that symbolized in different ways
the changes that were taking place.  Elvis Presley became the symbol
of change in the 1950s and a figure that linked youth rebellions and
racial protest.  In the sixties the revolution in outlook became
more blatantly political and even more challenging as it attacked
for the first time American conceptions of war and the use of
national power.  Bob Dylan now replaced Elvis as the symbol of how
the times were changing.

This course will look at the transformations in values and authority
as symbolized by Presley and Dylan in the 1950s and 1960s through a
series of lectures, readings, and films.  Students will read books
on Elvis and Dylan, look at studies dealing with the Alfred Kinsey
and the sexual revolution, civil rights, the Cold War, Vietnam and
the counterculture.   Excerpts from Hollywood films that deal with
issues studied in class will also be shown and discussed.   There
will be several essay type exams and several short writing
assignments.