Date of Award

12-1-2016

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Advisor

George Clark

Second Advisor

Jason Puskar

Committee Members

CJ Hribal, Josepha Lanters, Valerie Laken

Keywords

1970s, Anti-War Movement, Feminism, Student Housing Co-Op, Student Protests, Vietnam War

Abstract

In the spring of 1970, university campuses across the United States were roiled by the news that the Vietnam War had been escalated, through a bombing campaign, into the jungles of Laos and Cambodia. The protests at UW-Madison campus were among the largest. Frustration that, despite years of protests, the War not only continued but had expanded beyond Vietnam’s borders, led to the bombing of a physics research building on the UW campus later that summer. THE COMEDIANS begins a few weeks after that bombing. The novel’s primary setting is a student housing co-op near Langdon Street, formerly known as Fraternity Row. The male residents of this co-op decide to harbor one of the bombers of the physics research building, who has failed to disappear into the underground as the other two have. For the duration of the novel, from the beginning of the semester to Halloween, the male residents of the novel are concerned with a scheme to conceal the identity of their new lodger from the female residents, who have begun to hold feminist consciousness-raising sessions that disturb the relationships of several of the couples living in the house. The night of the Halloween party, the co-op is invaded by a local biker gang, rampaging right-wing reactionaries, and the FBI. When the dust clears, the fugitive is gone, and two of the house members, both in relationships with other people, are on their way to falling in love.

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