But your kids are gonna love it: Nostalgic Extremism in Depictions of the 1950s

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 

Popular cultural depictions of the 1950s often emphasise an imagined nostalgic aesthetic of excessive conformity and heterogeneity as the foil to a protagonist’s rebellion against the established order. Commonly, the setting is not explicitly stated as the 1950s, but the cultural touchstones provide a receptive allusion for the audience to place the experiences temporally and contextually. Edward Scissorhands (1990), Don’t Worry Darling (2022) and other iterations of the Stepford Wives storyline, and Pleasantville (1998) all invoke an invented 1950s atmosphere of heightened conformity with an understated element of extremism under threat of non-conformity. Other depictions of the period such as Amazon’s The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel (2017-2023), HBO’s Lovecraft Country (2020), and Apple TV+’s Hello Tomorrow (2023-) engage more directly with excessive affluence, literal and metaphorical threats of extreme racism, and deep meditations on the viability of the American Dream. Even Grease (1978) and Back to the Future (1985) exemplify an extremely curated nostalgic view of the 1950s made specifically for younger audiences without personal memories or associations with the decade. This panel seeks papers analysing retrospective portrayals of the 1950s that create a public imagination of extreme nostalgia for the decade or use existing nostalgia as a reference point for cultural, social, and historical criticisms either contemporarily to its production or retrospectively about the 50s.


This panel seeks to analyse the public imagination of the 1950s as a distinct cultural aesthetic born from extreme nostalgia for the period and depictions of it in American cultural media.


Please submit abstracts of up to 300 words, 100 character titles, and a brief bio to this link by 30th September: https://www.cfplist.com/nemla/Home/Login


Link to NeMLA conference information: https://www.buffalo.edu/nemla/convention.html