HL90CY: Watergate: Conspiracy, Paranoia, and the Abuse of Power





Instructor: Steve Biel
Meeting time: Tuesday, 2-4

HL90CY: WatergateRussiagate, Emailgate, Benghazigate: these are the latest in a series of scandals and pseudo-scandals bearing the suffix that originates in the name of the Washington hotel where, in the summer of 1972, burglars associated with the Committee to Re-Elect the President broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The subsequent cover-up and revelations of a myriad of crimes and abuses of power by the Nixon White House and previous administrations, abbreviated as “Watergate,” reshaped U.S. political culture in the 1970s and resonate into our own time. Corrupt power, secrecy, surveillance, and paranoia suffuse these works. In this course, we will explore how Watergate figured into canonical works of popular culture, especially Hollywood movies, in the first half of the 1970s. They speak to a pervasive distrust of American institutions—especially government—that extended across the political spectrum. Watergate will be our entry point into a wide-ranging engagement with the cultural history of the 1970s and its legacies in the present. Filmmakers and authors include Francis Ford Coppola, Sidney Lumet, Barbara Kopple, Alan J. Pakula, Ivan Dixon, Robert Altman, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Mary McCarthy, Elizabeth Drew, Kurt Vonnegut, Ursula K. LeGuin, Gore Vidal, Carl Bernstein, and Bob Woodward.