Kids Don’t Just Wanna Have Fun. Material Girls, Wild Boys, and the Melancholic Eighties

deadline for submissions: 
July 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
de genere. Journal of literary, postcolonial, and gender studies

Kids Don’t Just Wanna Have Fun. Material Girls, Wild Boys, and the Melancholic EightiesEditors for this issue: Maria Giovanna Fusco (University of L’Aquila) and Fiorenzo Iuliano (University of Cagliari)




Collective imagination still retains a conventional idea of the Eighties as a decade of uncommitted fun and lighthearted materialism. The years of the close alliance of Reagan and Thatcher under the banner of political conservativism saw the unprecedented conflation of paranoid bigotry (e.g. the rise of televangelists in the US, the passing of Section 28 in the UK), with the explosion of hedonistic consumerism. In the long demise of the progressive and libertarian utopias of the 60s and 70s, even the achievements that former generations had long struggled for turned inward and underwent a process of gradual commodification, thus losing their subversive and liberating power. A whole generation thus found itself enjoying freedoms and possibilities that were taken for granted, as if they were not the outcome of previous battles, and that were experienced as purely individual and apolitical, a set of available commodities ready to be consumed rather than collective rights to be perpetually defended.

The lack of political awareness was not always consciously elaborated as a loss, and therefore emerges in the culture of the time as an undercurrent melancholia, a sort of mourning whose object can never be fully grasped. The AIDS crisis, on the other hand, in a moralizing political climate that emphasized the stigmatization and marginalization of already vulnerable communities and individuals, became a formidable cultural catalyzer for collective fears and bereavement. Despite the current retrospective perception of the Eighties as the epitome of glossy aesthetics and empty opulence, writers, directors and artists in general were producing at the time much more varied and articulated speculations on and representations of the aftermaths of the counter-culture. The confrontation with loss and melancholia permeates the cultural productions of the decade and is represented with different degrees of awareness across many authors, media and genres, from literary masterpieces such as De Lillo’s White Noise (1985), Toni Morrison’s Beloved (1987), Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay (1988), and Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989), to outstanding movies including American Gigolo (Paul Schrader, 1980), Birdy (Alan Parker, 1984), and Stand by Me (Rob Reiner, 1986), to iconic music albums, such as Depeche Mode’s Music for the Masses (1987), Culture Club’s Kissing to Be Clever (1982), and Michael Jackson’s Thriller (1982).

This issue of de genere seeks contributions that reflect on the melancholia of the eighties, looking at the decade as a moment in which culture is more or less unwittingly obsessed with a sense of loss. We invite original submissions that address the issue of melancholia and related topics both on theoretical ground and as analytical investigations of 1980s culture in its broadest sense, from literature to movies, from music to visual arts, from TV to comics.

Abstracts of 300 words (in English or Italian) should be sent to: and in CC to: and, along with a list of references and a short biographical note.

For submission guidelines and further info please check our submissions page.


Submission of proposals: April 10, 2020

Submission of articles: July 15, 2020

Suggested reading list

Agamben, Giorgio. 1993. Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Annesley, James. 1998. Blank Fiction: Culture, Consumption and Contemporary American Narrative. London: Pluto Press.

Id. 2006. Fictions of Globalization. Consumption, the Market and the Contemporary American Novel. London: Continuum.

Berlant, Lauren. 1997. The Queen of America Goes to Washington City: Essays on Sex and Citizenship. Durham: Duke University Press.

Boyer, Robert. 1991. “The Eighties: The Search for Alternatives to Fordism.” In The Politics of Flexibility, edited by Bob Jessop et al.), 106-132.Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar.

Cartosio, Bruno, 1997. L’autunno degli Stati Uniti. Neoliberismo e declino sociale da Reagan a Clinton. Milano: Shake.

Chambers, Iain. 1985. Urban Rhythms: Pop Music and Popular Culture. London: Macmillan. 

Derrida, Jacques. 1996. “By force of mourning”. Critical Inquiry, 22: 171-192.

Ellis, Bret Easton. 2019. White. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Freud, Sigmund. 1917. “Mourning and Melancholia.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works, 237-258. London: The Hogarth Press.

Horton, Emily, Philip Tew, Leigh Wilson, eds. 2017. The 1980s: A Decade of Contemporary British Fiction. London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney: Bloomsbury.

Koestenbaum, Wayne. 2013. My 1980s and Other Essays. New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux.

Krieger. Joel. 1986. Reagan, Thatcher, and the Politics of Decline. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Kristeva, Julia. 1989. Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. New York: Columbia University Press.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America. 1995. New York: Theatre Communication Group.

Landsberg, Alison. 2004. Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press.

Leavitt, David. 1985. “The New Lost Generation”. Esquire, May.

Mars-Jones, Adam and Edmund White. 1987. The Darker Proof. Stories From a Crisis. London: Faber & Faber.

Thompson, Graham. 2006. American Culture in the 1980s. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.