English 178 - Summer Sessions I, 2015

Topics in Nations, Regions, & Other Cultural Geographies

Class Information

Instructor: Dobbins, Gregory
CRN: 53878
Time: TWR 4:10-5:50
Location: 1060 Bainer


    The Break-Up of Britain: British culture of the 1970s, before and after Thatcher

    In the introduction to a book entitled The Break-up of Britain written in 1976, Tom Nairn argued "there is no doubt that the old British state is going down. But, so far at least, it has been a slow foundering rather than the Titanic-type disaster so often predicted. But in the 1970s it has begun to assume a form which practically no one foresaw...everything conspired to cause an inexorable spiral of decline. The slide would end in break-down sooner rather than later." That same year, violence in Northern Ireland reached devastating levels; the riots at that summer's Notting Hill Carnival (in which Black British youth fought back against an increasingly repressive police force) symbolized a particularly tense moment in British race relations; and the nihilism of the punks, the new subculture of choice for disaffected British youth, suggested the very real sense that there was no viable positive future. Within three years, however, hints of revolution altogether ceased with the election of Margaret Thatcher to the office of Prime Minister; Britain would ultimately not break up, but it would be a vastly different nation than it was in 1970.

    British culture in the 1970s has long had a bad reputation; the historian Arthur Marwick, writing not long after the close of that decade, recalled that "by the end of the 1970s books and articles were being published on different variations of the 'Is Britain Dying?' theme. In addition to the problems of the economy, race, and civil violence, some writers also pointed to Britain's poor performance, after the excitements of the 1960s, in the realms of intellect, arts, and entertainment." Yet I have to disagree with that statement, as a number of interesting works emerged in that decade in all three of those areas. This course will seek to recover a sense of the literary and cultural diversity of Britain in the 1970s; in addition to literary works, we fill be watching British films from the period and we will be listening to and studying popular music-- glam rock, punk, and reggae-- of the period.


    2 Essays, short writing assignments, Final Exam, Participation


    TBA-- check this page