History | The Bomb in American Life
A379 | 16863 | Linenthal

Above class open to undergraduates and Education MA's only
A portion of the above class reserved for majors
Above class meets with AMST-A399

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 culture.

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 an
oral history project to be described in class.