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Swinging 60s: Fiction, Art, and Revolution




Admission Requirements

Academic Writing.


“We spend our lives”, says one of Doris Lessing’s characters in a famous novel of the 60s, “fighting to get people very slightly more stupid than ourselves to accept truths that the great men have always known. They have known for thousands of years that to lock a sick person into solitary confinement makes him worse. They have known for thousands of years that a poor man who is frightened of his landlord and of the police is a slave. They have known it. We know it. […] It is our task, yours and mine, [to tell this to the great mass of people]. Because the great men are too great to be bothered.” Distrust of authority and revolution are two of the major signatures of the 1960s; massive anti-war protests, the rise of the New Left, countercultural and civil rights movements, the critique of psychiatry, experimentation with alternative forms of spirituality, hippy lifestyles, “cool” music and attitudes have also helped mythologize the decade in popular consciousness. If the beginning of postmodernism is commonly set in this period, are we in a certain way still reaping the “harvest of the sixties”? This course is designed to familiarize students with some famous novels, movies, music, and art that still make this epoch alive for us: the course material is a combination of literary texts (Lessing’s masterpiece The Golden Notebook, V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men), films (Antonioni’s Blow-up, Miloš Forman’s One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Hans Weingartner’s The Edukators), documentaries (Uli Edel’s The Baader-Meinhof Complex, Shane O’Sullivan’s Children of the Revolution), music (The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, but also Steve Reich, John Cage, Philip Glass), art (Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Rauschenberg) and theoretical texts (Fredric Jameson, Jean-François Lyotard, Jean Baudrillard, and others).

Course Objectives

The purpose of the course is to familiarize students with the political, cultural, social and literary landscape of this important decade in the history of the past century. Highly interdisciplinary in approach and material, the course encourages students to take note, evaluate, compare and interpret the different perspectives that various mediums bring into the conversation about the historical developments, meaning and legacy of the 1960s. Students will thus enhance their critical thinking, debate, and writing skills.

Mode of Instruction

Lecture, presentations, workshops, various creative assignments, debates and mock-trial of the Baader-Meinhof protagonists.


To be confirmed in course syllabus.


In the first part of the course, we will engage closely with a significant part of Doris Lessing’s thought-provoking novel The Golden Notebook(1962). The text is online in its entirety, and it actually consists of the four parallel diaries kept by one of the main characters on various compartments of her life: political life (Communism and its critique), her past in Africa (about which she has written a novel), her everyday life, and her emotions. You can find it here:, brilliantly annotated in the margins by seven contemporary writers who will be our partners of conversation. Students are encouraged to read at least the first part (Free Women) before the first day of class. Then we will continue to read and discuss a few short sections of the book each week.

In weeks 6 and 7, we will read and discuss the novel of another Nobel prize winner, V. S. Naipaul’s The Mimic Men (1967).

Contact Information

Weekly Overview


Preparation for first session