British Association for American Studies


The Paranoid Style Revisited: Postwar American Cultural Politics and The Argosy Magazine (John Rylands Library, Manchester)

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The Paranoid Style Revisited: Postwar American Cultural Politics and The Argosy Magazine (John Rylands Library, Manchester)

June 28, 2018 - June 29, 2018

The Paranoid Style Revisited: Postwar American Cultural Politics and The Argosy Magazine John Rylands Library, Manchester, 28-29 June 2018

Half a century ago Richard Hofstadter published his influential essay ‘The Paranoid Style in American Politics,’ in which he identified ‘heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy’ as a recurrent feature of the nation’s political life. Hofstadter’s thesis has in subsequent decades been at the centre of a rich and interdisciplinary scholarly discourse that has been attentive to the cultural politics of the Cold War period as read especially through the lens of gender, but also those of science and technology, mass media, and corporate capitalism, amongst others.

In our current political moment Hofstadter’s call for critical reflection on the genesis, mechanisms and consequences of the paranoid style beckons with renewed urgency. The aim of this conference is to generate such reflection by engaging with and showcasing a rare research resource recently acquired by the University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library: The Argosy Magazine. Founded in the 1880s as a youth magazine in the 1880s and switching to an adult fiction formula at the turn of the century, The Argosy was relaunched in 1946 as ‘The Complete Man’s Magazine.’

Forged from an eclectic mix of rugged frontier individuality and outdoor virility, anxiety about the supposedly emasculating threats of suburban domesticity and white-collar managerialism, a desperation to fulfil the norms of consumerist well-being projected by corporate advertising, and a paranoia about lurking external and internal threats to American liberties, The Argosy serves as a largely untapped archive for probing the volatile mood of postwar cultural politics that prompted Hofstadter’s essay. This conference aims to both raise awareness of this collection for individual researchers and to foster cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional networks to re-examine the varied cultural landscape of American ‘paranoid style.’

Day 1: Thursday 28 June

10-10.30: Coffee and Registration

10.30-10.45: Welcome

Session 1: 10.45-12.45: American Media Styles

Elizabeth Fraterrigo (Loyola University Chicago), ‘Live Life to the Hilt’: Playboy and Cold War America

Timothy Melley (Miami University, Ohio), Some Paranoid Styles in Cold War Narrative

Ian Scott (University of Manchester), Hofstadter and Hollywood: American Movies and the Paranoid Style

12.45-1.30: Lunch

1.30-2.00: Ian Burney (University of Manchester), The Argosy comes to Manchester
Session 2: 2.00-4.00: Anxiety and Affluence

Tom Bishop (University of Lincoln), Selling Anxiety: Nuclear Shelters and the Male Consumer

Shane Hamilton (University of York), Supermarkets as Weapons in the Cold War Farms Race

Marcia Holmes (Birkbeck, University of London), Hidden Persuaders and Subliminal Advertising

4.00-4.20: Coffee

4.20-6.00: Film Screening, Seconds (1966), introduced by Ray Macauley (University of Manchester)

6.00-7.30: Conference Reception
Day 2: Friday 29 June

Session 1: 9.00-11.00: Cold War Sexualities

Andrew Fearnley (University of Manchester), Cold War Freud: Theories of Human Aggression and Violence

Peter Hegarty (University of Surrey), Wasps of the American West: Reading National Narratives across Kinsey’s Entymology and Sexology

Ian Magor (Birkbeck, University of London), Crossing Sexual Barriers: Assimilation and Miscegenation in Postwar American Film

11-11.30: Coffee

Session 2: 11.30-1.30: Human Sciences and American Subjects

Martin Halliwell (University of Leicester), Paranoia and the Therapeutic Revolution

Rebecca Lemov (Harvard University), Paranoia and Metanoia Among the Brainwashed

Susan Lindee (University of Pennsylvania), The Paranoid Style in Cold War Genetics
1.30-2.30: Lunch

Session 3: 2.30-4.30: Paranoid Styles and Conspiratorial Fantasy

Greg Eghigian (Pennsylvania State University), Alien Agendas: Influence Imagined in the World of UFOs and Extraterrestrial Contact

Chris Hamlin (University of Notre Dame), Making the American Psychopath

Charlie Williams (Birkbeck, University of London), From modified human agents to modifying human agency: John Lilly and the paranoid style in American neuroscience

4.30-5.00: Closing Comments & Discussion

Delegates should register their attendance using eStore: https://estore.manchester.ac.uk/conferences-and-events/the-john-rylands-library-jrl/the-paranoid-style-revisited/the-paranoid-style-revisited-postwar-american-cultural-politics-and-the-argosy-magazine

Fees: Early bird rate (until 1 May 2018): £90 (£60 for students/unwaged) Standard rate (after 1 May 2018): £110 (£75 for students/unwaged)

Price: £110 (£90 early bird)
Concessions: £75 (£60 early bird)


June 28, 2018
June 29, 2018
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