Film and Literature: 1962 in Fiction, Film, and Art
The aim of this course is to take a deep dive into the art produced during a single year in United States history, in order to both 1) consider works of art in relation to both the historical circumstances in which they were produced and 2) compare and contrast how works of art in different media (fiction, film, painting) achieve their effects. As a Writing Intensive class, this is also a course about writing historically informed criticism of art. Over the course of the semester you will produce, in various stages, one long paper about the art and events of 1962. You can think of this paper not as an academic essay but as a work of cultural journalism suitable for a magazine or website. Such journalism has standards of research and writing that you will be expected to fulfill, even as you keep in mind the goal of entertaining and teaching your imagined audience.
Why 1962? As we’ll discuss, this was an incredibly eventful year in US culture. President Kennedy had just been elected, and his administration was giving US citizens a new sense of mission both at home and in the rest of the world. The Cold War was in full swing, and the United States was competing with the USSR abroad. The Civil Rights movement and other social movements were seeking to challenge and expand the rights and responsibilities of Americans. The Beatles had not yet formed, but rock ‘n’ roll was developing amidst the backdrop of older musical forms like jazz and classical. All of these influences, and many others, unsurprisingly made their way into books, movies, and other works of art. By the end of the class, “Why 1962?” is a question you yourself will have answered, in your own way, in your writing.
In addition to books read and films screened outside class, we will also consider works of visual art in class, and begin each class session by listening to a song from 1962.