« History & the Arts/History & archaeology

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Popular culture has the power to reflect, shape and subvert the prevailing political anxieties of its time. Through the lens of popular geopolitics, this course explores how ordinary citizens engaged with the concept of a Cold War through a myriad of cultural mediums. From novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four and On the Beach to films such as Andromeda and Dr Strangelove, we will navigate the growing tensions post-WWII; the red scares of the 1950s; the Space Race; the Cuban Missile crisis; the pervasive nuclear fears of MAD; détente; and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union.

Course Outline

  • Session 1 - 1940s & 1950s: Growing Tensions, Red Scares and Extraterrestrials
  • Session 2 - 1960s: The Space Race and the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Session 3 - 1970s: Détente, Yoghurt Commercials and Pepsi-Cola
  • Session 4 - 1980s & 1990s: Cold War 2.0, continued MADness and the End of Soviet Union

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, you should be able to

  • have a basic understanding of Cold War history and politics
  • demonstrate knowledge of key popular culture products from the Cold War era on both the Western and Soviet sides
  • identify how popular culture influences and is influenced by its political landscape

 Course Materials

This four-week course will include excerpts and clips from the following novels, films and other media:

  • Golden Gate Quartet, ‘Stalin Wasn’t Stallin’’ (1943 song)
  • George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949 novel)
  • U.S. Federal Civil Defense Administration, Duck and Cover (1952 instructional film)
  • Nevil Shute, On the Beach (1957 novel, 1959 film)
  • Boris Pasternak, Dr Zhivago (1957 novel, 1965 film)
  • Ivan Yefremov, Andromeda (1957 novel, 1967 film)
  • Ian Fleming, From Russia, with Love (1957 novel, 1963 film)
  • Dr. Strangelove; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964 film)
  • Dannon’s ‘In Soviet Georgia’ campaign (1973-78 commercials)
  • Reagan’s ‘Bear in the Woods’ campaign (1984 commercial)
  • Raymond Briggs, When the Wind Blows (1982 graphic novel, 1986 film)
  • Akvarium, ‘Poezd v Ogne (Train on Fire)’ (1988 music video)

Who should enrol

This course is aimed at a general audience. No previous knowledge of the topic is required.

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