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v2.1 Reference

On the Cusp

The Yale College Class of 1960 and a World on the Verge of Change

How did the 1950s become "The Sixties"? This is the question at the heart of Daniel Horowitz's On the Cusp. Part personal memoir, part collective biography, and part cultural history, the book illuminates the dynamics of social and political change through the experiences of a small, and admittedly privileged, generational cohort.

A Jewish "townie" from New Haven when he entered Yale College in fall 1956, Horowitz reconstructs the undergraduate career of the class of 1960 and follows its story into the next decade. He begins by looking at curricular and extracurricular life on the all-male campus, then ranges beyond the confines of Yale to larger contexts, including the local drama of urban renewal, the lingering shadow of McCarthyism, and decolonization movements around the world. He ponders the role of the university in protecting the prerogatives of class while fostering social mobility, and examines the growing significance of race and gender in American politics and culture, spurred by a convergence of the personal and the political. Along the way he traces the political evolution of his classmates, left and right, as Cold War imperatives lose force and public attention shifts to the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam.

Throughout Horowitz draws on a broad range of sources, including personal interviews, writings by classmates, reunion books, issues of the Yale Daily News, and other undergraduate publications, as well as his own letters and college papers. The end product is a work consistent with much of Horowitz's previously published scholarship on postwar America, further exposing the undercurrent of discontent and dissent that ran just beneath the surface of the so-called Cold War consensus.

About the Author

Daniel Horowitz is the Mary Huggins Gamble Professor of American Studies emeritus at Smith College. He graduated from Yale in 1960, magna cum laude in American studies, and later earned a doctorate in history at Harvard. From 1966 until he retired from teaching in 2012, he taught American studies and U.S. history, mostly at women's colleges, often with his wife, Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, who holds a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard.

Horowitz's work has focused on the history of consumer culture and social criticism in the United States during the twentieth century. Among his publications are The Morality of Spending: Attitudes toward the Consumer Society in America, 1875–1940 (1985); Betty Friedan and the Making of The Feminine Mystique: The American Left, the Cold War, and Modern Feminism (1998); The Anxieties of Affluence: Critiques of American Consumer Culture, 1939–1979 (2004), winner of the Eugene M. Kayden Prize for the best book published in the humanities in 2004 by a university press; and Consuming Pleasures: Intellectuals and Popular Culture in the Postwar World (2012).

He has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Humanities Center; the Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe College, Harvard; and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2003 the American Studies Association awarded him its Mary C. Turpie Prize for "outstanding abilities and achievement in American Studies teaching, advising, and program development at the local or regional level."
Dan and Helen live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Their daughter, Sarah, is an associate professor of history at Washington and Lee University. Their son, Ben, is a software engineer in the San Francisco Bay Area.


"A fascinating memoir and an important contribution to the field of American Studies. Horowitz juxtaposes and contextualizes his own experiences with those of his classmates to address the larger question of generational meaning. Much of this story takes place outside of the classroom and beyond the ivory tower, a testament to Horowitz's and his fellow students' ability to position their studies in a global context."—Wendy Kline, author of Bodies of Knowledge: Sexuality, Reproduction, and Women's Health in the Second Wave

"On the Cusp is a book of many pleasures.  Horowitz writes about his college years with both the memoirist's attention to color and detail, and the historian's attention to scale. . . . a valuable retrospective and reappraisal for those who remember these years; it will be an education in itself for those who do not."—Matthew Frye Jacobson, William Robertson Coe Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

"At the tail end of what came to be known as the Silent Generation, Daniel Horowitz and his classmates negotiated coming of age at Yale College. Here is their story, told with sympathy, irony, and the acuity of a master historian. More than a memoir, Horowitz has given us a subtle and even surprising meditation on the inner life of a bastion of privilege at the height of the American Century."—Sean Wilentz, author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln
University of Massachusetts Press

9781625341457 : on-the-cusp-horowitz
Paperback / softback
336 Pages
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