Attica As Symbolic Event


"All we want's the facts, Ma'am"

The study that we will do in class is not a study of Attica; it is instead a study of the various responses to Attica that filled the public sphere in the days following the Attica revolt. We will study how four different motives incorporated the events at Attica into their perspective on the world, and how they used Attica as proof that their interpretation of the United States in the 1960s was the "correct" interpretation.

Step 1

Even though our study is not about what "actually" happened at Attica (an inquiry based in a referential theory of meaning), some familiarity with the general shape of the events will help you. Learn some things about the uprising of prisoners at Attica State Correctional Institution, near Buffalo, NY, in September 1971, from these sources. Remember that these sources are written within one of the motives that we will study.

Wikipeadia account

History Channel account


Step 2

Next, read some discourse from those commenting at the time. Your objective in reading these should be to see how thepeople who generate and read this discourse are using the resources of language (vocabulary, story lines, strategies) to understanding what is happening at Attica. Note differences among the motives and how each motive works. We will study this more carefully in the lecture and can discuss it in class.

If you prefer video, you might also want to look at a half-hour film on Attica. I repeat, this film is produced from the perspective of one of the motives we will study. Try to understand the motive as you watch.

Step 3

Come to class on Tuesday, April 27 ready to study the diversity of communities that used the events at Attica and how they brought those events into their understanding of the world around them in 1971.

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