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Title:Ground Zero: Nuclear Weapons and Social Transformation
Author(s):Jacobs, Robert Alan
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Lillian Hoddeson
Department / Program:History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):American Studies
Abstract:This study is an analysis of the icons of nuclear war and nuclear weapons in American popular culture from 1945 to 1963. In this study, iconological analysis is applied to the depiction of nuclear icons in American popular culture during the period of the atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. From initial press reports of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through civil defense pamphlets, and ultimately to the science fiction b-movies of the fifties, the popular depiction of such nuclear icons as radiation, survival, and the Bomb, are analyzed for their symbolic, iconological content. The study suggests the existence of a master narrative structure, which it refers to as the "alchemical narrative" that is encoded into nuclear iconology during this period The alchemical narrative suggests that nuclear icons expressed more than just the concept of death traditionally associated with them, becoming powerful symbols of rebirth in popular culture. The alchemical narrative is derived from the similarity of the public statements of a broad range of American social leaders in the year after the bombing of Hiroshima, in which the idea is advanced that nuclear weapons, because of their tremendous destructive power, have placed human society at an historical crossroad, either these weapons will end war, or be the cause of the end of the world, either suggestion is one which embodies total social transformation. This alchemical subtext was expressed in the depiction of nuclear icons in American popular culture throughout the early Cold War. The impact of this narrative on the generation of children known as the "baby boomers" is also explored and it is suggested that the alchemical narrative may have been among the roots for the American counterculture of the sixties.
Issue Date:2004
Description:293 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2004.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3130940
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-25
Date Deposited:2004

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