Todd Gitlin, PhD, a noted 1960s cultural scholar and book author, will visit Washington University in St. Louis March 28 and 29 to keynote a two-day mini-colloquium exploring the counter-cultural movements of the year 1968, including a special focus on the many literary, social, political and artistic theories spawned by these movements.
Free and open to the public, the colloquium is organized by Stamos Metzidakis, PhD, professor of French, romance languages and comparative literature in Arts & Sciences, in conjunction with this semester’s undergraduate/graduate course “1968-In Theory and Praxis.”
Gitlin, a professor of journalism and sociology at Columbia University, describes 1968 as a pivotal year in which the convulsions of a decade
converged and the country slouched over the edge of a precipice. What happened in 1968 still deserves the most sober reflection, he argues, because much of what happened in those days has been distorted and warped by popular misconceptions.
“The right way to remember the year 1968 is to give its complications their due,” wrote Gitlin in a Los Angeles Times commentary on the year’s 40th anniversary.
“The egalitarianism of the civil rights movement and a spirit of cultural adventure commingled with a whole mélange of joyful and desperate reactions against white supremacy, senseless war, empty materialism and supine obedience,” he writes. “The result was a mutiny against all establishments, usually for good and sufficient reason, although ends were frequently violated by means.”
It was, Gitlin notes, the year of the Tet offensive in Vietnam; Walter Cronkite’s televised farewell to victory in that “wretched” war; the My Lai massacre (unknown until the next year); Eugene McCarthy’s presidential run; Columbia University’s uprising; President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second full term; Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination; scores of subsequent riots; Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination; the Chicago Democratic Convention riots; the Miss America protest in Atlantic City; Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” and election; and, for good measure, the first manned voyages in the Apollo program — not to mention Prague Spring; the French student uprising; the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia; and, in Mexico City, the massacre of protesting students and the black power salutes of Olympic athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith.
Discussion of these topics begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 28, with a keynote lecture by Gitlin in the Anheuser-Busch Dining Hall at the Charles F. Knight Center. At 7:45 p.m., Metzidakis will lead a roundtable discussion, followed by a reception.