Consuming HistoryHistory on Film and Television in the USA and UK
Today’s class• 1/ Preface: What is Popular/ Public History? (plenary introduction)• 2/ History on Television: Documentary (group discussion/ work)• 3/ Film History and National Identity(group discussion/ work)
1/ What is ‘public/ popular history’?• An investigation into the • The ‘historical way that history works in imagination’ popular culture • The ‘historical sensibility’• Or: an investigation into the of a nation, an audience, way that history is made a group public • Response to shifts in• Or: an investigation into the museum practice, way that publics get their collecting histories • ?does Public/ Popular• History as practice? history have a ‘centre’?• ‘The employment of historians and historical method outside of academic’ (Robert Kelley)
Radicalism: the past vs. history• ‘History’ must be radically severed from ‘past’: the former is always calibrated with cultural contradictions, whereas the latter is much more fluid a notion. ‘Past’ is involved with both active and involuntary memory, but ‘history’ can only project the simulation of the remembered. - Sande Cohen
Ato Quayson, developing Chakrabarty• ‘I ask for a history that deliberately makes visible, within the very structure of its narrative forms, its own repressive strategies and practices, the part it plays in collusion with the narratives of citizenship in assimilating to the projects of the modern state all other possibilities of human solidarity’, Postcolonialism, p. 48
‘History Happens’• Popular audiences have become involved in and understand the stakes in historical representation, recognize ‘history in the making,’ and see themselves not only as spectators of history but also as participants in and adjudicators of it. Current debates around the nature, shape, and narration of history are no longer on the province of academic historians and scholars of film and literature. ‘History happens’ now in the public sphere where the search for a lost object has led not only to cheap substitutes but, in the process, also to the quickening of a new historical sense and perhaps a more active and reflective historical subject
Celebrating some bits and forgetting others, heritage reshapes a past madeeasy to embrace. And just as heritage practitioners take pride in creatingartifice, the public enjoys consuming it. Departures from history distress onlya handful of highbrows. Most neither seek historical veracity nor mind itsabsence.
One of the key questions:• IS THIS OK? – What happens when history is ‘outside’ the academy? – Who ‘controls’ it? – Who ‘uses’ it? – What does it become?
2/ History on Television• Documentary history • The YouTube clips (group, 15• Development of style minutes): through the C20th – What is the style of the presenter?• Shift of focus in much – What do they tell us? documentary from ‘great – What kind of history are they giving us? story’ to ‘personal touch’? – How do they get their authority?• Interactivity and – What evidence do they use? development of evidence – Is there anything controversial• ‘authorship’ – the historian here? and the documentary – What does this suggest about how• Anglophone focus? history works in popular culture? – How is it being consumed?• ‘popularity’ – WWII and Pharaohs
History on television• Types of documentary • Give some examples of• Evolution of the how it works in your documentary form experience• How does this • How might it work communicate ‘history’? around the world?• How does this allow the • Different cultures, audience to ‘think different historically’? historiographies?
3/ Film and National Identity• How does film add to national identity?• Is this an easy fit?• Nationalism/ identity?• Think about ‘national cinemas’ from early cinema: – Hollywood – Bollywood – Nollywood – British film – Russian film – But, influence of émigrés?
Rosenstone• History on film • What do you think?• The influence of historical • Should historical films be film on the way we think respectful of the past? about the past • Give some examples of• ‘the contribution of the films that ‘work’ and films historical film to historical that don’t understanding’ • What are the ethics of• Range of types of making films about real historical film people?• The creation of ‘real’ atmosphere
Rosenstone in detailMainstream film: Experimental contests• History as a story these in Rosenstone’s• History as story of view individuals Experimental film is more• ‘completed and simple ‘useful’? past’ …they ‘may help to• Emotional, personal revision what we mean by history history’• History as process• The ‘look’ of history
Higson on national cinema• Status of British film• Gravitas and film making• Types of ‘Britain’ sold in film around the world• ‘new’ genre – the Costume Drama
Higson: costume drama and nation • Linearity (?) • Nostalgia (?) • Political conservatism • Thatcherism • ‘heritage industry’ > Museums, sites, art galleries… • Fascination with: property, houses, things, ownership, inheritance
Higson: costume drama and nation • Linearity (?) • Nostalgia (?) • Political conservatism • But: innovation • But: movement, dynamism, historicity • But: ART?