Event Title

Dispatches From the Heart of the Reagan Era

Presenter Information

Bradley A. Rogers, LeHigh University

Location

Panel 18: Kearney 323

Start Date

27-10-2012 10:15 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 11:45 AM

Description

If baseball is the National Pastime, linked to the American character and our struggle for democracy, and if the image and career of Ronald Reagan embody that American character and national pride, what does it mean when several of the best novels about baseball—written during the Reagan years—include overt and implicit critiques of the Reagan Revolution?

Several of the canonical works of American baseball literature were produced in the 1980s, including W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, Eric Rolfe Greenberg’s The Celebrant, Donald Hays’s The Dixie Association, and David Carkeet’s The Greatest Slump of All Time. Also, some of the best baseball movies of all time were products of the 80s as well: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, Major League, and The Natural. When one considers the cultural atmosphere of a time that produced a Reagan presidency, it is not surprising that it would also produce a flowering of baseball-themed fiction and film.

Two of the most famous of those literary products, Shoeless Joe and The Celebrant, are highly critical of many of the values and practices of the Reagan Era. In particular, both present strong critiques of corporate practices and the personal and business values/ethics that make up a culture grounded on corporate structures, the creation of which was a goal of the Republican party of the 1980s. Interestingly, both books make their arguments within a celebration of baseball’s “Americanness,” echoing the strategies of those they are critiquing. And while the books’ discussion of corporate business values is somewhat timeless, there are also aspects of their criticism that apply more directly to, and help to illuminate, the Reagan era. Also, because of the unimpeachably American subject matter, baseball literature is shown by these examples to be a safe space for the kinds of economic critiques that are often attacked or ignored in mainstream discourse.

Considering the many similarities of the early 1980s to our current situation, including a severe recession, an unemployment crisis, and a very troubled Middle East, as well as the recent elevation of Ronald Reagan to mythic status among Republicans (and almost mythic status among many Democrats—President Obama especially), it is relevant and interesting to revisit the discussions of that time period.

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 27th, 10:15 AM Oct 27th, 11:45 AM

Dispatches From the Heart of the Reagan Era

Panel 18: Kearney 323

If baseball is the National Pastime, linked to the American character and our struggle for democracy, and if the image and career of Ronald Reagan embody that American character and national pride, what does it mean when several of the best novels about baseball—written during the Reagan years—include overt and implicit critiques of the Reagan Revolution?

Several of the canonical works of American baseball literature were produced in the 1980s, including W.P. Kinsella’s Shoeless Joe and The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, Eric Rolfe Greenberg’s The Celebrant, Donald Hays’s The Dixie Association, and David Carkeet’s The Greatest Slump of All Time. Also, some of the best baseball movies of all time were products of the 80s as well: Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Eight Men Out, Major League, and The Natural. When one considers the cultural atmosphere of a time that produced a Reagan presidency, it is not surprising that it would also produce a flowering of baseball-themed fiction and film.

Two of the most famous of those literary products, Shoeless Joe and The Celebrant, are highly critical of many of the values and practices of the Reagan Era. In particular, both present strong critiques of corporate practices and the personal and business values/ethics that make up a culture grounded on corporate structures, the creation of which was a goal of the Republican party of the 1980s. Interestingly, both books make their arguments within a celebration of baseball’s “Americanness,” echoing the strategies of those they are critiquing. And while the books’ discussion of corporate business values is somewhat timeless, there are also aspects of their criticism that apply more directly to, and help to illuminate, the Reagan era. Also, because of the unimpeachably American subject matter, baseball literature is shown by these examples to be a safe space for the kinds of economic critiques that are often attacked or ignored in mainstream discourse.

Considering the many similarities of the early 1980s to our current situation, including a severe recession, an unemployment crisis, and a very troubled Middle East, as well as the recent elevation of Ronald Reagan to mythic status among Republicans (and almost mythic status among many Democrats—President Obama especially), it is relevant and interesting to revisit the discussions of that time period.