"I am trying to write the history of a feeling" - Grace Elizabeth Hale's Talk at ASL

On July 3, 2013, Prof. Grace Elizabeth Hale, Director of American Studies at the University of Virginia, held a talk entitled ,”Child’s Play: Making an Alternative Culture in Athens, GA, in the Reagan Era” at American Studies Leipzig. In her lecture, Prof. Hale presented the research she has been conducting for her current book project on the emergence of the alternative culture scene in Athens, GA, in the 1980s. The special focus for her talk at ASL was the notion of ‘child’s play’ and how it figures in the works of bands like R.E.M., the B-52’s, Pylon, and Oh-OK.

The ideology of child’s play, Prof. Hale described, is to be creative in every aspect of your life and to chose emotional expression over craft and professionalism. The sound that emerged in the 1980s Athens “was often raw and ragged, a fetishization and celebratrion of amateurism.” In her project, Prof. Hale tries to get a picture of the scene as a whole, not only looking at famous artists that emerged from it but also the everyday life and the work that went into creating art. “I am trying to write the history of a feeling,” Prof. Hale said, about how “a fairly small group of people created the feeling that everything was possible—a utopian moment in the late Cold War period in a small conservative college town in Georgia.”