No figure has been more deeply entrenched in the collective American consciousness than President Richard M. Nixon.
“Richard Nixon haunts American culture,” said Daniel Frick, director of the Writing Center at Franklin & Marshall College.
Even people who don’t know about Nixon, Frick said, have had their views on life, culture and government shaped by Nixon and his legacy.
On Sunday, at noon, Frick will read from his new book, Reinventing Richard Nixon: A Cultural History of an American Obsession, in the Stahr Auditorium in Stager Hall. BookTV on C-SPAN will cover the event.
Published by the University of Kansas Press, the book reveals Nixon as a figure who continues to expose key fault lines in the nation’s self-definition.
Nixon served as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower. He lost to John F. Kennedy in the 1960 presidential race, but was elected president in 1968. He held the office until he resigned in 1974 to avoid being impeached after the coverup of the burglary of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. Since then the suffix ‘-gate’ added to a proper noun has designated scandal.
But that wasn’t the end for Nixon, Frick said. He reinvented himself later in his life. He continues to reappear in literature and film. And most intriguingly, Frick noted, even three decades after his leaving office, his political ideas permeate the discussion in American politics.
“The thing that struck me was the way that Nixon is portrayed in popular culture is different from any previous president,” Frick said. “It comes down to an argument about national identity. What kind of country are we? Where should we be and where are we headed?”
Sunday’s presentation also will include a series of photos of Nixon, many from Frick’s personal collection, editorial cartoons and other Nixon memorabilia.
Frick is senior adjunct assistant professor with the English Department. He is teaching a first-year seminar on America in the Age of Nixon for the American Studies Department.