Ideas as Opiates: Love and Ideology on “The Americans”
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7/5/2018 at 11:00:28 PM GMT
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Ideas as Opiates: Love and Ideology on “The Americans”

FX’s The Americans (2013-2018) follows the story of two Russian spies living in the DC suburbs during the late Cold War. Philip and Elizabeth Jennings, the said spies, navigate the Reagan era, parenthood, friendship, and marriage while attempting to either hold onto or accept the loss of the Communist beliefs that brought them to America in the first place. The narrative arcs of both of these characters and others on the show (especially their daughter Paige, their FBI agent neighbor Stan, and Philip’s informant Martha) demonstrate the ways in which the desire for, the pursuit of, and the dwelling within loving relationships can bolster, conflict with, and complicate one’s political ideologies.


Is love an ideology or does love trump ideology on The Americans? Moreover, on The Americans, what is the nature of political ideology and how does it both create and destroy loving relationships? How does the late Cold War depicted on this show relate to present day tensions between love and ideology and what lessons may be taken from this show in our fraught political climate? This panel seeks to question and complicate the show’s central tension between love and ideology and to suggest that The Americans not only speaks to Cold War history and to America in 2018 but also theorizes the transformative power of ideas in altering both personal and broader political histories.


Topics may include but are not limited to the following:


  • The illusion of normalcy in the DC suburbs and the concealment of fraying nuclear families behind white picket fences

  • Cold War politics and ideologies as embodied and enacted by leaders, KGB and FBI agents, and citizens

  • Relationships between the Cold War and contemporary global politics

  • The nature of trusting in love and its many different outcomes

  • The ways in which various characters’ ideological beliefs and actions mediate and affect their abilities and/or desires to love

  • Feminist theories and histories of love, desire, care, embodiment, and action as enacted by, namely, Elizabeth, Paige, and Martha: attention could be paid to 1980s feminist theories and their historical importance or more recent theories and histories

  • The use of American and Russian popular culture (especially film and music) to construct identities and forge emotional and ideological connections between characters as well as between audiences, characters, and narratives

  • The use of sustained close ups in wordless scenes and following scenes of intense dialogue

  • The ability to make loving, emotional connections with someone who holds an opposing ideological viewpoint

  • The relationship between secrecy and intimacy

  • The Americanization of Philip and Elizabeth Jennings

  • The nature and definition of a hero

  • The limits as well as the benefits of ideology critique


Please submit a (1) title, (2) a 2500 character or less abstract, (3) a 3-5 work bibliography, (4) a 150 word author biography, and (5) a current CV to wo44@cornell.edu by August 3, 2018 to be considered for this panel. Participants will be notified of selection on August 20, 2018.




Last edited Thursday, July 5, 2018

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