American Studies | Advanced Topics in S&H for AMST-The Bomb in American Life
A399 | 25949 | Linenthal

The Bomb in American Life

Professor Edward T. Linenthal

Course meets with HIST-A379

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, boundless miracles of science, and
ultimate protection. Through lecture, discussion, reading, film, and
music, we will investigate the symbolic history of “The Bomb” in our
Readings will include: Paul Boyer, Fallout: A Historian Reflects on
America’s Half-Century Encounter with Nuclear Weapons; Sven
Lindqvist, A History of Bombing; Max Frankel, High Noon in the Cold
War; Kenneth Rose, One Nation Underground: the Fallout Shelter in
American Culture;  Svetlana Alexievich, Voices From Chernobyl: The
Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster ; and selections from: 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; and Mike Davis, Dead
Cities. Films will include: “On the Beach,” “The Atomic Café,” “Dr.
Strangelove,” “The Day After,” “The Day After Trinity,”
and “Hellfire.”
Course requirements will include several essay examinations and a
oral history project to be described in class.