The Seventies Now

Culture as Surveillance

The Seventies Now

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 432 Illustrations: 29 b&w photographs Published: May 1999

American Studies, Cultural Studies > Surveillance Studies, Media Studies

Most would agree that American culture changed dramatically from the 1960s to the 1980s. Yet the 1970s, the decade “in between,” is still somehow thought of as a cultural wasteland. In The Seventies Now Stephen Paul Miller debunks this notion by examining a wide range of political and cultural phenomena—from the long shadow cast by Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal to Andy Warhol and the disco scene—identifying in these phenomena a pivotal yet previously unidentified social trend, the movement from institutionalized external surveillance to the widespread internalization of such practices.
The concept of surveillance and its attendant social ramifications have been powerful agents in U.S. culture for many decades, but in describing how during the 1970s Americans learned to “survey” themselves, Miller shines surprising new light on such subjects as the women’s movement, voting rights enforcement, the Ford presidency, and environmental legislation. He illuminates the significance of what he terms “microperiods” and analyzes relevant themes in many of the decade’s major films—such as The Deer Hunter, Network, Jaws, Star Wars, and Apocalypse Now—and in the literature of writers including John Ashbery, Toni Morrison, Adrienne Rich, and Sam Shepard. In discussing the reverberations of the 1969 Stonewall riots, technological innovations, the philosophy of Michel Foucault, and a host of documents and incidents, Miller shows how the 1970s marked an important period of transition, indeed a time of many transitions, to the world we confront at the end of the millennium.
The Seventies Now will interest students and scholars of cultural studies, American history, theories of technology, film and literature, visual arts, and gay and lesbian studies.


“Draw[s] suggestive and lively comparisons between disparate cultural documents. . . . [A] fascinating and scholarly study which sheds much new light on a complex decade.” — David Seed , European Journal of American Culture

“In his most effective argument, Miller posits the ’70s as the era when Americans got used to perceiving multiple simultaneous narratives—seen, unseen, implied, and excerpted. His historical readings of Watergate, Vietnam, and other political shenanigans in this light form the strongest portions of the book.” — Julia Scher, Bookforum

“Look[s] beyond surface tendencies . . . . Miller’s thesis is that during the 1970s ‘institutionalized external surveillance’ familiar from the cold war era of the immediately previous decades became a more internalized phenomenon. From the women’s movement to the environment, Americans became accustomed to ‘surveying themselves.’ ” — Jerome Klinkowitz, American Literary Scholarship

“Miller shows how a few artifacts, at a unique moment, mark a break in conventional means of apprehending reality.” — Howard Brick , Journal of American History

“Miller’s last chapter gives us a close reading of Nixon’s resignation speech and the March 1973 tape about the ‘cancer on the presidency.’ In this ‘tricky dyptich’ of commentary about Nixon’s fierce appetite for domestic spying and vigilante recording, we find a focus . . . for the book’s theses about self-surveillance. Miller’s lesson is not simply about a president who thought he could coordinate all the nation’s intelligence agencies (the FBI, CIA, DIA, and NSA) under his direct control. It is also about an interpretive methodology largely invented in the 1970s that allows us to compare the infamous ‘eighteen-and-a-half minute tape gap’ with a John Cage sound/silence composition. Both periods of ‘silence’ taught us to listen to things that we had not heard before.” — Andrew Ross , American Literature

“One would be hard pressed to find a more detailed or nuanced appraisal of the uneasiness and paranoia that reigned during the ‘undecade.’” — Timothy Gray, Muse

“Suturing Warhol and Watergate to the Vietnam War and the Village People—with Hollywood celluloid for thread—Miller closes a mysterious missing gap in American cultural history.” — Jeremiah Creedon, Utne Reader

"Miller makes cultural comparisons that are equal parts genius and madness. . . . Maybe a perspective on the 1970s will help our current condition make sense, maybe not. Either way, Stephen Paul Miller’s book is a valuable and erudite hoot." — , San Francisco Chronicle

“Miller shows why and how we need to think comprehensively about the seventies—now. Interdisciplinary wit and a bold intelligence bring together poetry, painting, politics, and popular culture in a broad survey that is provocative, engaging, and timely for our posthistorical age.” — W. J. T. Mitchell, author of The Last Dinosaur Book: The Life and Times of a Cultural Icon“

“Miller’s commentary on the role of spies, lies, and audiotape in the Watergate era brilliantly resonates with the analysis of various references, at all levels of the culture, to new technologies of surveillance and new modes of recording history.” — John Brenkman, author of Culture and Domination

“Stephen Paul Miller is the most radical poet-critic I know. In this dazzling volume, he establishes principles of inclusivity that trap and illuminate contemporary poetry, art, and politics. . . . His research will remain a monument to cultural pluralism and a grand polemic against the politics of deletion as a cover-up.” — David Shapiro, author of Lateness: A Book of Poems


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Stephen Paul Miller is Associate Professor of English at St. John’s University in New York. He has written two books of poetry, Art Is Boring for the Same Reason We Stayed in Vietnam and That Man Who Ground Moths into Film.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations


ONE- Rippling Estemes

TWO- Mystery Tain: Micro-Periodizing Seventies Films from Patton to Apocalypse Now

THREE- The HIstorian's Bow

FOUR- Literature in a Convex Mirror

FIVE- Crossing Seventies Art

SIX- Politics in the Watergate Era




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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2166-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2154-5
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