Further Research

Plenty of future research is possible with these authors and this corpus alone, as there were many other important issues and subtopics that could be examined in a similar manner. Additionally, texts by these authors that have not been included in this corpus might be interesting to look at, such as Deloria’s editorials in the Sentinel during his time as executive director of the NCAI, or some of Vidal’s novels from this period. What would be most interesting for further research, however, is to consider some other groups of authors that have been left out here. The most important thing would be to expand the list of authors and create a wider spectrum, one that would especially have to work toward including women. Although my corpus is ethnically diverse, it is male-dominated and there is room for further projects to build on this. Perhaps the most valuable addition would be Mary McCarthy, a critic and activist best known for her 1963 novel The Group, which discusses the lives of a group of American women in the nineteen-thirties. She also traveled to Vietnam and wrote extensively on the issue in Vietnam (1967) and Hanoi (1968), paying attention to the soldiers’ experiences. Susan Sontag was another important literary critic active during the nineteen-sixties, who wrote on feminist issues, as well as more general problems. Some African American female voices that might be interesting to include are Angela Davis, an important activist whose views were formed during the height of the civil rights era and who also wrote extensively about these issues, and Alice Walker, a novelist who was involved with the civil rights movement. Finally, it might be interesting to consider some critics and activists who were predominantly involved with feminism, like Betty Friedan, author of The Feminine Mystique (1963) and Kate Millett, both of whom were also part of the National Organization for Women (NOW). Additionally, Millett was part of CORE, one of the leading civil rights groups.

Politically, too, some more variety might be interesting, because all the authors discussed here are left of the political center to a greater or lesser extent. Even Mailer, who described himself as a “left conservative” was still left-leaning in most of his political views. That is why it would be interesting to look at someone from the other side of the political spectrum, perhaps a conservative critic like William Buckley, to see how he and others who were most likely on the other side of the debate on many of these issues felt. Cleaver’s discussion in Soul on Fire gives a small hint of this, as his views had shifted in that direction by the late nineteen-seventies, but his discussion of the nineteen-sixties is still very much informed by how he felt during his more radical years. Another important factor to consider for future projects is the extent to which the authors discussed here are representative of what the larger population was feeling, as they were all rather removed from mainstream society by what can perhaps best be described as their celebrity status as literary authors. Baldwin addresses this problem in No Name in the Street, discussing his inability to really empathize with his friends in Harlem or understand how they reflect on what was going on, as they live such different lives. This indicates that future projects should leave room for a more bottom-up interpretation of events, looking not only at literary critics, who make important contributions in their own way, but also at accounts by ‘ordinary’ people, as far as those exist.

As this project has shown, the more perspectives we consider, the more nuanced an image we get of what life was like in different historical periods. The full complexities of history simply cannot be understood through a singular lens and further research should take that into account in providing more critical perspectives on this topic. It also provides a kind of template for research that could be applied not just to the nineteen-sixties or 1968, but feasibly any period in American history.

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