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First-Year Seminar--American History (102-6-20)


1970's Now


Michael J. Allen
Harris Hall - Room 342

Meeting Info

Allison Residential Comm 1021: Tues, Thurs 9:30AM - 10:50AM

Overview of class

The 1970s were a time of high prices, energy crises, violent crime, public corruption, diplomatic defeats, and general "malaise." Yet the decade also featured cultural ferment, political activism, technological innovation, and global circulation that created the world we inhabit. Personal computers, HBO, Nike, and Dillo Day all originated in the 1970s, so too the Democratic and Republican parties as we know them. And the 2020s have offered a weird replay, from a failed war to hyper-inflation to impeachment to debates about identity. COVID-19 had no exact parallel, but it resembles the HIV/AIDS crisis that began in 1981 and launched the career of Dr. Anthony Fauci. Joe Biden and Donald Trump also entered public life in the 1970s, as did Bernie Sanders, the Clintons, and George W. Bush.

In both decades the existing order proved unsustainable, prompting anxiety, experimentation, debate, and change. This seminar will offer an impressionistic introduction to 1970s politics and culture, less as history than as a two-way mirror onto the present. The class will explore how the past shapes the present and help students to use historical reading, research, writing, and reflection to orient oneself in moments of crisis and uncertainty. The goal is to show students that knowing the past can help us to know ourselves and the world around us in deeper ways while teaching practical and intellectual skills for college and professional careers. Students will have opportunities to research their own interests and answer their own questions.

Class Attributes

WCAS First-Year Seminar

Enrollment Requirements

Enrollment Requirements: Reserved for First Year & Sophomore only