The following panel looks to solicit original essays from scholars in a variety of fields that examine British and American period dramas from the perspective of transatlantic and/or “trans-generational” nostalgia. What can these works, and their popularity in Britain and/or America, tell us about our collective interest in an “idealized pre-modern” yet anachronistic past? How can we reconcile the treatment of the past, in these dramas, as a source of pre-modern authenticity with the paradoxical tendency to introduce contemporary notions of class, gender, nationalism, etc. in their narratives?
Essays may consider these texts in light of the argument Adam Gopnik advances in “The Forty Year Itch,” that the past “is not simply a good setting for a good story, but a good setting for you.” While Gopnik’s article focuses on nostalgia as a cyclical product that imagines “whatever happened or [we] thought to have happened” in American culture in the context of the popularity of AMC’s Mad Men, the popularity of the BBC’s period drama Downton Abbey complicates Gopnik’s hypothesis. Particularly, Downton Abbey’s WWI era time period directly contradicts Gopnik’s argument that nostalgia only focuses on a “decade roughly forty or fifty years past;” in addition, the show’s popularity among an American audience calls into question the sense that nostalgia is a product of society’s real or imagined sense of a shared cultural history. In short, contemporary period dramas on television transcend the notion that audience are nostalgic for a familiar, national past.
Essay topics are welcome on, but not limited to, the following shows: Copper, Downton Abbey, Mad Men, Midwife, etc.
Please email paper abstracts of 500 words or less to Dotterman@adelphi.edu by June 10, 2013.
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