Leerom Medovoi is Associate Professor of English at Portland State University and Director of the Portland Center for Cultural Studies.
Rebels: Youth and the Cold War Origins of Identityby Leerom Medovoi
Holden Caulfield, the beat writers, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and James Dean—these and other avatars of youthful rebellion were much more than entertainment. As Leerom Medovoi shows, they were often embraced and hotly debated at the dawn of the Cold War era because they stood for dissent and defiance at a time when the ideological production of the United… See more details below
Holden Caulfield, the beat writers, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, and James Dean—these and other avatars of youthful rebellion were much more than entertainment. As Leerom Medovoi shows, they were often embraced and hotly debated at the dawn of the Cold War era because they stood for dissent and defiance at a time when the ideological production of the United States as leader of the “free world” required emancipatory figures who could represent America’s geopolitical claims. Medovoi argues that the “bad boy” became a guarantor of the country’s anti-authoritarian, democratic self-image: a kindred spirit to the freedom-seeking nations of the rapidly decolonizing third world and a counterpoint to the repressive conformity attributed to both the Soviet Union abroad and America’s burgeoning suburbs at home.
Alongside the young rebel, the contemporary concept of identity emerged in the 1950s. It was in that decade that “identity” was first used to define collective selves in the politicized manner that is recognizable today: in terms such as “national identity” and “racial identity.” Medovoi traces the rapid absorption of identity themes across many facets of postwar American culture, including beat literature, the young adult novel, the Hollywood teen film, early rock ‘n’ roll, black drama, and “bad girl” narratives. He demonstrates that youth culture especially began to exhibit telltale motifs of teen, racial, sexual, gender, and generational revolt that would burst into political prominence during the ensuing decades, bequeathing to the progressive wing of contemporary American political culture a potent but ambiguous legacy of identity politics.
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Table of ContentsAcknowledgments vii
1. Identitarian Thought and the Cold War World 1
2. Cold War Literature and the National Allegory: The Identity Canon of Holden Caulfield 53
3. Transcommodification: Rock ‘n’ Roll and the Suburban Counterimaginary 91
4. Identity Hits the Screen: Teenpics and the Boying of Rebellion 135
5. Oedipus in Suburbia: Bad Boy and the Fordist Family Drama 167
6. Beat Fraternity and the Generation of Identity 215
7. Where the Girls Were: Figuring the Female Rebel 317
Conclusion: The Rise and Fall of Identity 331
Works Cited 377
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