The 60s were a turbulent time in American history - the Vietnam War was escalating, the Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, and it was the "Age of Aquarius." Hippies. Peace and Love. Flower power. It was the age of Woodstock. So, a lot of the literature reflected these themes. Change was in the air and there was rebellion against the complacent 1950s. For example, Harper Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in the 1960s. This was an important novel that illustrated the evils of racism. Maya Angelous wrote during this period, exposing the evils of racism from the point of view of African Americans. Women's liberation was featured in the works of such authors as Mary McCarthy and and Betty Friedan. Realistic literature with post-modern themes first appeared on the scene: In Cold Blood, The Fire Next Time, Slaughterhouse Five, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The 60s were turbulent and so was the literature. In the 1960s, there were many experimental poets that appeared on the literary scene. The so-called "Beat" poets that started in the 1950s continued into the 1960s.
In the 2000s, we still have some of the same themes, but it isn't cutting edge. For example, we have novels still about racism, but it isn't considered taboo and "new on the scene" as it was in the 1960s. A big difference is that the literature in the 2000s is much more graphic and sexual in nature. My personal opinion is that modern authors seem to throw in the "F" word just for fun. Often, graphic sexual language and situations are not even necessary for the literature, and yet, it's almost as if writers feel it is necessary to be potty mouths. The justification is that "Well, that's reality! That's how people talk today." I don't agree. But I digress. I may be old fashioned, but I think there is way, way more sex in literature today than in the 1960s. All sorts of sex - deviant sex, even.
Another difference in literature in the 2000s is that we have a lot of writing being done by so-called diasporic writers. These are people from other countries that come to the U.S. and write about what it is like to be a displaced person, away from the homeland. There is a lot more ethnic writing in the 2000s than in the 1960s in American Literature. No subject is taboo in the 2000s. In the 1960s, subjects like homosexuality, child abuse, incest, etc., were not as prevalent and if they did appear, the instances were more veiled.
Perhaps some other teachers can chime in and give their opinions, especially some of our younger colleagues. What do you all think?