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Atomic Bomb Culture:Portrayals of Race in Nuclear Literature, Film & Music

Myrriah Gómez,   
Core: Humanities


The atomic bomb exploded into popular culture soon after the U.S. decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with Little Boy and Fat Man. During the Cold War, global citizens were terrified of a nuclear holocaust, but those fears slowly deescalated as the atomic bomb began to symbolize more than death and destruction. The mushroom cloud began popping up everywhere as a “cool” symbol, and people detached the symbol from its meaning. As fictional representations of the atomic bomb became popular, communities of color commonly became the subject of these fictional accounts. In this course we will interpret, analyze, and evaluate cultural production that evolved alongside the atomic bomb paying close attention to how Chicana/o, Native American, and African American peoples are represented in such works. Students will improve their reading, writing, and research skills by evaluating the nuclear age in a humanities framework. Not only will we examine literary, visual, and performance pieces, but also we will study government documents and declassified government materials along the more popular works.

Salter, R.B. Chamisa Dreams.

Vizenor, Gerald. Hiroshima Bugi: Atomic 57.

Reeder, Carolyn. The Secret Project Notebook.

Sanchez, Rosaura and Beatrice Pita. Lunar Braceros: 2125-2148.

Butler, Octavia. Dawn.

Bradley, John. Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age

Additional Excerpts from:

Foertsch, Jacqueline. Reckoning Day: Race, Place, and the Atom Bomb in Postwar America.

Marmon Silko, Leslie. Ceremony.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. 

John Adams Dr. Atomic. (performance recording) 

• Students will be expected to read five (5) novels/novellas; participate in discussions and activities during class; analyze poetry, art, and music; write two (2) analytical essays; facilitate a class discussion with a group; write a creative piece that reimagines the ending of one of the texts that we have read or a related text (with permission); and complete a final portfolio.

• Students will be expected to read approximately 150 pages of text per week.

Myrriah Gómez has a Ph.D. in English with an emphasis in U.S. Latina/o Studies from The University of Texas at San Antonio. Her teaching and research interests include Chicana/o and Native American literature and history, nuclear popular culture, and New Mexico spatial poetics.