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Title: Retro, history and nostalgia : rethinking popular memory and the 1950s
Author: Sims, Stella Corinne
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 7962
Awarding Body: University of Sussex
Current Institution: University of Sussex
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis examines how and why we remember the 1950s in Britain in particular ways. The 1950s have become a popular and visible decade in the culture of 'retro' since the late-1960s; there is a stylistic fascination with iconic symbols that have become shorthand for the post-war era. Popular memory is the everyday sense of a past which circulates in a particular culture through the interaction of past and present, public and private, which is expressed and experienced through memory, media and commodities. I interrogate how popular memory is expressed nostalgically through 'Fifties' retro and heritage in Britain, revealing the tensions between past and present in the politics of remembering. In the main, studies of popular representations of the past through nostalgia and retro have largely remained within the boundaries of academic disciplines such as subcultural studies, design/art history and collective memory theory. I use this scholarship in combination to analyse our popular historical culture because a popular sense of the past is created and experienced by an interaction of many different cultural expressions, experiences and representations. Using an interdisciplinary approach, this project blends interviews with fans of Fifties revival culture with other sources such as memories from the Mass Observation Archive, period dramas on film and television, retro in popular music, as well as press reception on retro and nostalgia. This innovative methodology foregrounds the tensions and politics of representing the past, challenging the notion of popular memory of the 1950s as merely 'retro' consumerism and manipulated history. Recent academic thought has emphasised the 'presentness' of nostalgia; that this emotional, rose-tinted view of the past is actually a response to the present. This project suggests nostalgia can be used with agency - individuals and communities use nostalgic images for a wide range of personal and political meanings; nostalgia can also be dynamic and pleasurable. We remember the past through family albums and personal memory, but these interact with mediated pasts in retro popular culture, favourite films and period dramas. My research calls for a more democratic approach to historical study which considers not just 'what happened' in the past but the politics of how we imagine and re-imagine the past.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: DA566 20th century