Wednesday, July 9, 2008

A Call for Counterculture Course Bleg

If you were teaching a certain angry, countercultural work from the 60s, and were pretty sure your students had hardly any mental images of the 60s or why the work might be shocking, what visual representations might you show them to give them some frameworks?

Easy Rider most closely matches this work's themes, I'd argue, although I've had really interesting discussions where people disagreed. However, Easy Rider doesn't excerpt or boil down well. Neither does Medium Cool, which also works to capture the flavor of anticipation and unrest (I saw the two paired in a course and it really worked for me.)

What might you show students to open up a discussion about the 60s?

(Or, really, make some lists and throw out all sorts of interesting stuff ... I'd love to see an imaginary syllabus or whatever insights might come to your mind ... let's get a big ol' conversation going!)

15 comments:

Hilaire said...

I know it's not fictional...but what about excerpts from The Weather Underground...? It's such an arresting (so to speak) film, and I think gives a great sense of the political counterculture...Think it could provoke great discussion, too.

Dr. Crazy said...

I'm also thinking music can be a great way in. "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield and "Four Dead in Ohio" come immediately to mind (although the Kent State shootings were 1970, but still, the college angle could be good). There are lots of great photographs, too, which would perhaps be a powerful visual way into the discussion. So none of this is film, but it could be a way in.

Sisyphus said...

Ooo, suggestions! Sounds good.

What about something that gets at this sense of the whole, orderly world suddenly breaking apart and turning upside down?

The Simpsons parodies this type of awakening moment when Homer Simpson's mom is shocked into the counterculture by the sight of Joe Namath's hair, for example, but I'd rather show a historical document than a parody ... ;)

Artemis said...

Hi, I don't comment v. often, but I thought I'd mention a movie I recently watched: When We Were Kings.
It's about a 1974 fight btwn Ali and Foreman, but its first five min. or so trace Ali's history in the 60s including his decision not to fight in Vietnam. And his "god damn America" at the beginning resonates with certain current events...

Belle said...

What about some art? Or use fashion plates of Mamie and then drop in on the hippies to get a sense of the radical changes? That way, you're using primary sources that are accessible and static as you explore what's going on. So... The Cleavers vs ???

Bardiac said...

I would also make sure to include images from the Civil Rights movement. Also stuff from the SNCC, SDS?

Quadrophenia? It's England, but it gives a sense of the violence of confrontations.

From tv, perhaps *All in the Family*?

I'm 400 years behind in my reading, so I can't even think to suggest a syllabus.

Maybe a scene or two from Easy Rider? The sandwich scene?

adjunct whore said...

that's so cool, hilaire, i was going to say the Weather Underground documentary too!!! another visual/musical collage might be Across the Universe, which will be slightly less offensive to students than the WU.

another documentary--Eyes on the Prize--about the civil rights movement.

sounds like a fun course! check out Across the Universe, i bet students would be freaked but entertained.

Fretful Porpentine said...

Music-wise, how about some mid-sixties Dylan? "Subterranean Homesick Blues" or "Like a Rolling Stone" would work well, I think, especially if you compared it to the early acoustic stuff.

Sisyphus said...

This is all great! Keep em coming! Now I want to teach an entire course with all this! (noting, of course, the extreme irony of someone born in 75 teaching a class on the 60s, but, hey, I seem to know more about it than them.)

To complicate this even further, the text we are reading does not overtly mention "the 60s" or connect directly to the counterculture at all, which may be part of why students get so confused when I try to make these connections. Think kinda like _Bonnie and Clyde_. Ooh! That might be a good one to show, even!

kermitthefrog said...

Mmm, don't know how much this relates directly, but the PennSound website has some excellent recordings of Allen Ginsberg readings ("Howl" and others) from the late '50s, which you can download or stream. In fact, PennSound or UbuWeb might be good general resources since I'm sure they have lots of recordings from the 60s.

Eyes on the Prize is definitely a good one for background on civil rights.

And how ignorant are we talking here? Will they at least have seen Forrest Gump? (Not that I recommend teaching it, but that at least gives a very simplified version of 60's history they might mentally be referring to. It's my impression that even people who know no history at all think of "the 60's" as "that hippie time.")

D said...

If you wanted to put a sort of late-mod spin on it, you could show them the excerpt of the movie adaptation of Fear and Loathing from the San Fran. concert where Flea in a hippie wig licks acid off Johnny Depp's sleeve and it ruins the suit's life. Then there's that nice recap of 60s counterculture and its failure via voiceover. And the whole thing is maybe 5 minutes.

JustMe said...

also not my time period, but what also comes to mind, aside from everyone else's great suggestion, is that TV miniseries from 99, "The 60s" -- it had Julia Stiles in it. It was actually pretty well done and has some scenes that show the counterculture of the new generation in comp with their parents.

Miruna said...

Another good documentary is"Berkeley in the 60s"--als has that local connection since you're in California. Here's a youtube clip, you don't have to show the whole thing:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n0Cp3PbzpZY

I was a sophomore at Cal when I first saw the documentary in a history class. I'm thankful for it.

Susan said...

The movie "Joe"? I haven't seen in in almost 40 years, but I remember at the time thinking that it had the vibe right. And what's good is that it's not all political -- i.e. some of what is shocking is sex & drugs. Politics comes into it, but. . .

k8 said...

Coming very late to this, but what about some snippets from Alcatraz Is Not An Island - about the occupation of Alcatraz by AIM.