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Framing History

The Rosenberg Story and the Cold War

1992
Author:

Virginia Carmichael

Framing History

An important contribution to our understanding of anti-communism and American culture of the post-war era. Carmichael’s use of historical sources and arguments is simply superb; indeed it provides one of the most fully realized explanations for Cold War anti-communism that I have encountered.

George Lipsitz

Framing History

Virginia Carmichael received a doctorate from Rice University and has lectured extensively in the areas of twentieth-century American political society, the cold war, and cultural criticism. She is currently a freelance writer living in Missoula, Montana.

Framing History

An important contribution to our understanding of anti-communism and American culture of the post-war era. Carmichael’s use of historical sources and arguments is simply superb; indeed it provides one of the most fully realized explanations for Cold War anti-communism that I have encountered.

George Lipsitz

Freelance writer Carmichael has a valuable idea: to use the complicated story of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg as an open-ended narrative whose various versions have been attempts either to construct history or to critique the official version of history. Carmichael’s academic prose may limit the book’s readers to specialists, though she does examine popular culture. Carmichael begins by delineating the conservatives’ official, Cold War version of the Rosenberg narrative, which led to public acceptance of the concept of ‘the Soviet atomic spy ring.’ She reveals how this version of the narrative exploited Ethel Rosenberg’s remoteness from ‘sterile cultural images of the ideal 1950’s wife.’ Carmichael Also analyzes the critique of the Rosenberg story in art and books, such as in E.L. Doctorow’s novel The Book of Daniel, which suggests the possibility of dissent in a post-McCarthy society; and in Robert Coover’s novel The Public Burning, ‘a devastating critique of masculist hegemony.’ Carmichael concludes that in art and in history there are moments when the repressed elements of our consciousness are liberated.

Publishers Weekly

Overall, historians of the Cold War in the United States will find Carmichael’s generalizations worth mining. They will also find little to argue with in the basic point about how the Rosenberg case continues to represent an unresolved breach in the nation’s moral fiber.

American Historical Review