Literature of the 1970s

Literature of the 1970s

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Literature of the 1970s

The literature of the 1970’s contains a divergent amount of writers and genres. Poems, novels, and short stories are the main forms of expression, and these were produced by writers from around the world. “Many of the books in the 1970’s revolve around a general theme of man’s alienation from his spiritual roots”(Gillis).

One author of the seventies is John Updike. He portrayed his characters “trying to find the meaning in a society spiritually empty and in a state of moral decay”(Gillis).

Interest in the 1970’s focused on writers as disparate in the concerns and styles as V.S. Pritchett and Doris Lessing(“English Literature”). V.S. Pritchett is noted as a literary critic of remarkable education. She is also considered a master of the short story. Doris Lessing went from writing short stories collected as African novels concerning the role of women in contemporary society.

“No playwright dominated this decade of both social and artistic unrest. Among the most acknowledged were Sam Shepherd, Lanford Wilson, David Mamet, and Neil Simon”(Gillis). Another noted playwright is Edward Franklin Albee. He is an American playwright whose most successful plays focus on familial relationships. His early plays are characterized by themes typical of the theater of the absurd. The characters suffer from an inability or unwillingness to communicate meaningfully or to sympathize or empathize with one another(“English Literature”).

Another author of the seventies is Iris Murdoch. A teacher of philosophy as well as a writer, she is esteemed for slyly comic analyses of contemporary lives in her many novels such as The Black Prince. Murdoch’s effects are made by the contrast between her eccentric characters and the underlying seriousness of her ideas(“English Literature”).

Eudora Welty, an American writer was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Some of her novels include The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, The Ponder Heart, and Losing Hearts. Her skillful re-creation of regional patterns of speech and thought make her well-noted. “Welty’s main subject is the intricacies of human relationships, particularly as revealed through her characters’ interactions in intimate social encounters”(Eudora Welty: Biography). Most of her novels and short stories are tales of eccentric and even hideous characters. She portrays them with charm and sympathetic humor. Many of the stories that brought her fame first appeared in The New Yorker Magazine.

Another American novelist during the seventies was Michael Shaara. He was a
short-story writer whose writing on military matters is known for its historical accuracy and realism.

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sympathetically presents the position of non-whites while conveying the conflicting feelings of liberal whites who live under a system they believe to be wrong(“Gordimer, Nadine”). She won the Booker Prize in 1974 for her novel, The Conservationist.

Sir Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul is a Trinidadian-British writer and essayist. He is one of the masters of English narrative. In fiction and essays marked by stylistic virtuosity and psychological insight, he focuses on his childhood, his travels beyond Trinidad, and the difficulties facing the Third World(“Naipaul, V.S.”). Two of his noted works are, India: A Wounded Civilization and A Bend In the River.

Toni Morrison was one of the strongest literary voices to emerge from this decade. “He wrote about the Black American experience as never before”(Gillis). His book, The Bluest Eye won the National Book Award which marked the emergence of successful African-American writers. Other black writers who emphasize personal experiences and the musicality of will include Alice Walker and August Wilson(“Arts and Culture: 1970’s”)

The Vietnam War was a major event of the seventies. “Whether or not Americans agreed with U.S. involvement in Vietnam, or supported politicians who agreed with U.S. involvement, the war shaped the way Americans defined themselves and one another”(Stewart 8). Many young Americans protested the involvement of the U.S. in the Vietnam War. They turned to a counterculture of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll. Their confidence in the presidency, and middle class values and power collapsed under weight of defeat and corruption. During Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign, he stressed the need for peace in Vietnam. Here is a quote from Nixon, “I pledge to you, new leadership will end the war and win peace in the Pacific. All he needed was six months’ time to end the war”(Stewart 11). Nixon did not keep his promise and in early 1970 he did not decrease U.S. military activity in Vietnam and he authorized an expansion of the war into neutral Cambodia.

In 1974 the last troops left Vietnam after Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho signed a treaty in Paris. American diplomats stayed in Saigon but Vietnamese forces began to crumble. “U.S. helicopters take out the last American and allied Vietnamese personnel in a flurry of chaos as the North Vietnamese army rumbles into Saigon”(War & Peace: 1970’s).

Five men were arrested on June 17, 1972 and charged with burglary at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate. The burglars were in the Democratic headquarters because they needed to fix electronic eavesdropping equipment which they planted during a previous break-in. It was later found out that the burglars had worked for the Committee to Re-Elect the President-an agency which would be known as CREEP.

Nixon assured Americans that he and his staff were not involved in the break-in and wiretapping of the office at Watergate. While this was going on, people close to Nixon were arranging to payoff those who were arrested, in exchange for their silence. “In a national speech, Nixon insisted, “People have to know whether or not their president is a crook. Well, I am not a crook.” Those words would haunt Nixon”(Stewart 20).

Watergate hearings began in May 1973. In July 1973 the White House staff revealed that Nixon regularly taped conversations in the Oval Office. Eventually a Supreme Court decision forced Nixon to turn over the tapes to prosecutors. “In a speech to the American people on August 8, 1974, Nixon explained that he would resign the next day. Vice President Gerald Ford succeeded him”(Stewart 21).
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