Headmaster's Voice

Takayuki Tatsumi (1955-) is Professor Emeritus of Keio University, Tokyo, Japan and headmaster of Keio Academy of New York (2022-). Since he received Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1987, Tatsumi has long taught American Literary History and Critical Theory at Keio University and other institutions. He served as president of the American Literature Society of Japan (2014-2017), president of the Poe Society of Japan (2009-2020) and vice president of the Melville Society of Japan (2012-).

His major books include: New Americanist Poetics (Seidosha, 1995, the winner of the 1995 Fukuzawa Yukichi Award), Full Metal Apache: Transactions between Cyberpunk Japan and Avant-Pop America (Duke UP, 2006, the winner of the 2010 IAFA [International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts] Distinguished Scholarship Award) and Young Americans in Literature: The Post-Romantic Turn in the Age of Poe, Hawthorne and Melville (Sairyusha, 2018). Co-editor of The Routledge Companion to Transnational American Studies (Routledge, 2019), he has also published a variety of essays in PMLACritique, Extrapolation, American Book ReviewMechademia, The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature and elsewhere on subjects ranging from the American Renaissance to post-cyberpunk fiction and film.

For more detail, visit the following URL: 

Main List

#36 The Long and Winding Seventies

When I revisited Boston last September (See Headmaster’s Voice #31), I could also have a chance to talk with Professor Bruce J. Schulman of Boston University, whose significant book The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics (The Free Pres / Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2001) I had finished co-translating with my former student Ms. Ayako Kitamura. Since the Japanese edition was to be published from KOKUSHOKANKOKAI, INC. by the end of the year, I felt it indispensable to have an interview with the author in person, on September 30, 2024 at Nubar Restaurant of Sheraton Commander, Cambridge.   Hence my long essay “The Long Seventies: An Intersection between Decade Studies and Regional Studies” as the Japanese afterword to The Seventies, which has just been translated into English by another former student of mine Ms. Ena Ozaki, who has studied with Professor Schulman at Boston University since 2019, completing her Ph.D. dissertation.  For Mainichi Shimbun’s interview with me, see below: https://mainichi.jp/articles/20240508/ddm/010/040/019000c


The Long Seventies:
An Intersection between Decade Studies and Regional Studies

Takayuki Tatsumi
Tr. Ena Ozaki, Boston University

Look at the waste land, nobody alive and nothing active.
Scattered fragments conjure up myriad frustrations.
In no man’s land, no one cares about life.
Yet behold, there shall be left in it new sprouts.

What lies beyond the waste land?  This is what Boston University history professor Bruce J. Schulman illuminates in The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics.

Let me begin with an episode of a picture that immediately came back to my mind after reading this book. It was the fall of 2011, about 12 years ago. During an international conference sponsored by ASAP (Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I visited a museum dedicated to the work of Andy Warhol (1928–87), the king of Pop Art, who was born in this very city and who most astutely represented America from the 1960s to the 1980s. The museum was filled with his famous silk-screened portraits of Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Mao Zedong, embodying the spirit of counterculture. Also included was a 1985 portrait of the Macintosh computer created a year after the original Macintosh personal computer had been released from Apple, at that time that cyberculture was beginning to spread widely in the United States.

But why a portrait of Macintosh?

It all started when Warhol was invited to Sean Lennon’s birthday party at the Dakota on October 9, 1984. When he entered Sean's room, there was a young guy setting up an Apple computer that the life of the party had received as a birthday present. In his diary, Warhol recalls the conversation with the kid: "I said that once some man had been calling me a lot wanting to give me one, but that I’d never called him back or something, and then the kid looked up and said, “Yeah, that was me. I’m Steve Jobs.” And he looked so young, like a college guy. And he told me that he would still send me one now” (The Andy Warhol Diaries [1989], 607). At this time, Steve Jobs (1955–2011) was giving away his company's computers to many celebrities to promote the products, and Warhol was at the top of the list. Warhol's first encounter with Jobs finally led him to the Macintosh and to its potentiality for revolutionizing the art world as well.  “I felt so old & out of it,” he recalls, “with this young whiz guy right there who’d helped invent it” (607).

I began with the above episode because Warhol’s work successfully connects The Beatles—whose groundbreaking rock music fundamentally transformed the entire world culture—and Steve Jobs—whose admiration of the band led to the personal computer revolution in the 1980s. Having seen dynamos at the 1900 Paris Exposition, distinguished historian Henry Adams foresaw a paradigm shift “from the Virgin to the Dynamo,” where Christianity that had dominated western world until the nineteenth century was being replaced by technocracy of the twentieth century. Similarly, Warhol presumably envisioned the personal computer as a possible modern icon.

Indeed, both the Sixties and the Eighties are vividly remembered as eras in which some kind of epochal cultural revolutions took place: counterculture and cyberculture. It has already been a clichéd analogy that the role of drugs in the former was replaced by the role of microchips in the latter.

However, what about the Seventies between the two decades?

As the author Bruce J. Schulman points out, the reputation of that decade was not always favorable. The Beatles as a cultural symbol of the Sixties disbanded in 1970, and John Lennon was shot in 1980. With that, the counterculture spirit waned further. As Tony Tanner rightly pointed out in his masterpiece City of Words (1971), it was the sense of entropy—as Susan Sontag puts it, “Everything running down”—that epitomized the mood of the early 1970s. The 1980s would see the rise of neoliberalism led by the political conversion of the ultraleft to the ultraright.

The Republican legacy of Barry Goldwater in the 1960s was inherited by Richard Nixon, and then by Ronald Reagan, a self-confessed political disciple of Goldwater. With Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the so-called Star Wars program, the Cold War became more critical than ever in the 1980s. The 1970s, the decade in-between, has usually been regarded as an empty period with nothing to see in itself, or at best as the “late Sixties” or a period of transition. Even Schulman stresses that the decade evokes a general image of a “wasted” era with “nothing worth remembering,” whose sensibility “elicits only laughter” (xii).

I remember that there were, even in Japan, media outlets proclaiming that nothing had happened in the 1970s. My generation, born in 1955 like Jobs and Bill Gates, was sometimes called the “Post-Shirake Sedai (the post-disenchanted generation).”  While the baby boomers, or “Dankai no sedai” in Japan, born immediately after World War II, constituted an idealistic generation that got enchanted with the contemporary idea of revolution and suffered burnout, ours was an empty generation that was left behind by the fever of the ideological strife and not even allowed to be “disenchanted.” Or maybe our generation was what Schulman describes as “a wasted generation.” Indeed, I, who was a fifth-grader when the Beatles came to Japan in 1966 and was a ninth-grader when they disbanded in 1970, was struck by a sense of being somewhat left behind. I assume Schulman, born in 1959, had had similar feelings. Yet Steve Jobs, another latecomer, never forgot the legacy of the Beatles, launched a company with the same name as the band’s record label (Apple!), and yielded outcomes as great as his respected precursor: he also transfigured the world.

In lecturing on American literary history, I have consistently oversimplified the decade from President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 through the end of the Vietnam War in 1973. Kennedy, whose overwhelming popularity was bolstered by the Cold War sentiment, served as the symbol of liberal and rationalist forces to overcome the irrationality of totalitarian and communist forces. As his public persona affected the media landscape as represented by television, Americans in the 1960s came to empathize with him, building a strong bond of trust with the President. His assassination signifies the moment where that trust was demolished, and magnified through the media-saturated reality. The predicament of the Vietnam War and President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal further amplified the public’s distrust of the President. 

Kennedy’s assassination was also a historic moment where media technology dismantled the ideological dichotomy between the reality of Pax Americana and the unreality of USSR. Thus, it was quite inevitable that 1960s American literature would favor what political historian Richard Hofstadter defined as the paranoid style—skepticism based on conspiratorial fantasy about reality—winding up with the linguistic experiments fragmenting reality and making narratives nonlinear. The rise of postmodern literature during the 1960s has been explained in this post-Kennedy context, which  highlighted a number of  talented authors such as Kurt Vonnegut, John Barth, Thomas Pynchon, Donald Barthelme, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Samuel Delany, Ursula Le Guin, and James Tiptree Jr.

What the book convinces us is that the Seventies is neither dead nor completed. According to the Japanese TV program The History of Subculture Around the Globe: The Lineage of Desire (NHK BS), in which Schulman showcased his extensive knowledge of cinema, many of the movies released during the decade are sensational masterpieces: Francis Coppola’s The Godfather (1972), George Lucas’ American Graffiti (1973), William Friedkin’s The Exorcist (1973), Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (1975) and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), John Avildsen’s Rocky (1976), Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976), John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever (1977), Lucas’ Star Wars (1977), Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter (1978), Robert Benton’s Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), to name a few. Looking at this list, one can never say that nothing happened in the 1970s. Schulman observes that the Seventies witnessed a noticeable rebellion against the elites who had dominated the postwar social, economic, and cultural order established in the past two decades.

 In the Japanese TV program aforementioned Schulman highly appreciates the Star Wars saga, which features a long and winding battle between the Galactic Empire and the rebel alliance, and redefines its director George Lucas as one of the rebellious figures in the film industry.

As its title suggests, The Seventies is a decade study. By the same token, however, it is also a regional study showing that the South—the defeated states in the Civil War and the region commonly seen as left-behind in the US even after World War II— embodied the changes during the 1970s, which would lead to the southernization of American life. In 1995, Schulman published a biography of Lyndon B Johnson with a particular focus on Johnson as a Southerner from Texas. Similarly, in The Seventies the author devotes Chapter Five to Jimmy Carter as another Southerner, that is, a Georgian. It is this intersection between decade studies and regional studies that makes this book intriguing.

After the Reconstruction, the South lagged behind the industrialization of the North, and even in the twentieth century, the region could not overcome its structural poverty. During the Great Depression, the New Deal policies finally achieved large-scale intervention and leveraging by the federal government in 1938. However, the effects were slow to materialize, and even William Faulkner, who had become a major figure after winning the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1949, visited Japan in 1955 and captured the postwar imagination of the Japanese audience by redefining himself as a descendant from another defeated nation like Japan, that is, another peripheral area of the planet.

Accordingly, it is remarkable that this backward country uplifted itself and ended up by metamorphosing the entire American nation during the 1970s. The 1976 presidential election of a representative Georgian Jimmy Carter was a landmark in its redemptive history, followed by a Texan president George H. W. Bush, an Arkansan president William Jefferson Clinton, and, another Texan president George W. Bush. Schulman envisions this southern presidential legacy since Jimmy Carter as a symptom of the rise of Sunbelt that replaced Cotton Belt and overwhelmed the dominant northern political culture, transforming  the whole nation. Hence the new era supported by a diversity of movements around race, gender, class, particularly the movements of feminism and the New Age spiritualism. The waves of the movements sought self-realization and reprogramming, leading to, as the Chapter Three title indicates, plugging into a new frontier. In this era, the United States discovered a new identity, and Chapter Four, “The Rise of the Sunbelt and the ‘Redding’ of America,” theorizes this paradigm shift. Reddening is the key term describing the rise of the conservative, anti-establishment redneck culture as political mainstream along with the political shift in the South, where voters left the Democratic Party to the Republican Party during the 1970s.

There is another key concept in the Chapter Four title: Sunbelt. The South has long been explained in relation to cotton production and Cotton Belt. Yet the South remained as a dependency of the North as long as it relied on the outdated mode of production. As Schulman’s first book, From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt: Federal Policy, Economic Development, and the Transformation of the South 1938–1980 (1994), rightly shows, the South during the 1970s witnessed a drastic industrial development exemplified by the military bases in North Carolina and the space industry in Florida and Texas. In addition, although Schulman does not specifically mention it, from the 1980s onward, the Sunbelt has come to mean a huge center for high technology industries, extending from Steve Jobs’ Silicon Valley to Florida. The very seeds of this expansion of the South making possible the southernization of America had been embedded in the Seventies.

Now let me pick out one of my favorite episodes in the book: the life of a daredevil motorcyclist Evel Knievel and his performance tour. Although the tour failed, Knievel, a Florida resident, embodied the sexist and racist southern poor white culture and conservatism, and is now reevaluated by some critics seeing him as a prophet of post-1970s critiques of liberalism. His story is one of the blueprints of twenty-first century political division and American southernization secretly embedded within the Seventies.

In his 2016 monograph Strange Nation: Literary Nationalism and Cultural Conflict in the Age of Poe (Oxford UP, 2016), J. Gerald Kennedy radically reorganized traditional American literary history by vindicating the South. The year of 2021 saw the publication of Harilaos Stecopoulos’ magnificently edited volume, A History of the Literature of the U.S. South (Cambridge UP). They are merely the tip of an iceberg called “New Southern Studies” featured in the twenty-first century by leading scholarly journals such as PMLA and American Literature. The US South no longer refers to a geographic region. Given the growing understanding of how the American Empire treated the Philippines, the Caribbean, Central America, and Vietnam, it gets obvious that the South keeps redefining itself, inviting us to reconsider the North. The purpose of the New Southern Studies is to restructure the concept of the South in the context of the Global South. In this regard, it is fruitful to re-evaluate Schulman’s 2001 monograph The Seventies as a groundbreaking work of the New Southern Studies, which challenged the stereotypical images of the Seventies and re-characterized the South as a key player in paradigm shift of history in the twenty-first century.

Now let me outline the career of Professor Bruce J. Schulman.

Born in New York City in 1959, he received the B.A. summa cum laude with Distinction in History from Yale University in 1981, and his Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1987. After he taught at UCLA, he was appointed in 1994 Professor of History at Boston University. He has served as Chair of the BU Department of History and Director of the American and New England Studies program. He is the author of From Cotton Belt to Sunbelt (N.Y.: Oxford University Press, 1991); Lyndon B. Johnson and American Liberalism (Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994); and The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Politics, and Society (N.Y.: Free Press, 2001).  He also edited and co-edited numerous books. A contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, the Los Angeles Times, Professor Schulman has appeared as an expert commentator on numerous television and radio programs including NHK-BS “A World History of Subculture,” in which he reflects on American History since the 1960s, together with Kurt Andersen.

When I was asked in early September in 2022 to translate this masterpiece of American history, I had no idea why the editor contacted me who had long studied American literature. However, in retrospect, it is true that I have written several books on postmodern literature from the 1960s through the 1980s such as Metafikushon no bōryaku (Metafiction as Ideology, 1993) and Paranoido no teikoku: Amerika bungaku seishinshi kougi (The Paranoid Empire: Lectures in the History of American Literary Character, 2018). In those works, I reconsidered the rise of postmodern speculative fiction in the context of US literary and cultural history, making use of  cultural theories of Richard Hofstadter and Sacvan Bercovitch. As I read through The Seventies, I realized that it reinforced my understanding of 1970s America, providing an even more dynamic portrayal of the decade. Since I have long examined the American presidents as men of letters, I was especially fascinated with the author’s insight into the post-1970s interactions between US presidential history and literary history.

Thus, I asked my former student and skillful translator, Ms. Reiko Kitamura, whose BA thesis focused on the literary history of American war narrative, to prepare the first draft of the translation, which I thoroughly checked as the supervising translator, and the final version was completed at the end of November 2023. While we were very careful in our translation, I would  take full responsibility for any unexpected errors that may have occurred.

Lastly but not least, I would like to express my utmost gratitude to Mr. Noriyuki Shimizu, director of the editorial department of KOKUSHOKANKOKAI INC., who set up this translation project and proofread the text, notes and index patiently and meticulously.