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History, Heritage and Archives - Representing and Retrieving Cultural Histories


History, Heritage and Archives - Representing and Retrieving Cultural Histories

Cat Mahoney (University of Liverpool) - Postfeminism is History! Neoliberal Representations of Women’s History in Television Drama

This paper will identify and deconstruct the structuring role of postfeminism in four contemporary television dramas (Land Girls (BBC 2009-2011), The Bletchley Circle (ITV 2012-2018), Marvel’s Agent Carter (ABC 2015 - 2016), Home Fires (ITV 2015 - 2016)) that depict women’s experience of the Second World War. In so doing, it seeks to demonstrate that postfeminism, despite being a product of 1990s media culture and the current post/post-post-feminist moment, inflects and structures representations of women’s history. Because of the media’s (and specifically television’s) central role in the formation of cultural memory, this creates a lens through which women’s history and women’s historical identities are viewed in the present day. This postfeminist lens, or sensibility (Gill 2007), is thereby dehistoricised as an aspect of essential femininity. In this way the politics of the present are cast onto the past. Through this process, the events of the past are drained of any independent meaning and repurposed/redeployed to meet the needs of the present. The centrality and ubiquity of such constructions of the past is such that neoliberal postfeminist discourse has become a central component of a distinctly postfeminist historical sensibility, which informs and structures historical drama on television.


Bruce Wilkinson (John Rylands Research Institute) - The Dave Cunliffe Archive, Little Poetry Magazines and Industrial England’s Forgotten Undergrounds

The 1960s and 70s little poetry magazines and small presses disseminated experimental verse ignored by the British literary media, creating a network (both national and international) through which both radical poetry and politics flowed. From 1962 Blackburn’s BB Book press and Poetmeat magazine played an important part connecting with US poets and political militants, helping both distribute new liberal messages from across the Atlantic and create a local underground of activists, communes, alternative bookshops and newspapers. Although the part played by experimental poets in the beginnings of a British counterculture has been highlighted by a number of previous studies these have largely focused upon London. My research contests that far from being limited to the capital city, poetic undergrounds formed around the UK particularly in the non-metropolitan towns of ‘industrial England’ and that their influence can still be felt today.


About the speakers:

Cat Mahoney received her PhD from Northumbria University in November 2017 and is now one of 6 inaugural Derby Fellows at the University of Liverpool. Her doctoral research explored the representation of female participation in the Second World War in four contemporary television dramas. A monograph based on this research entitled 'Women in Neoliberal Postfeminist Television Drama: representing Gendered Experiences of the Second World War' is scheduled for publication with Palgrave Macmillan in 2019. Cat is also one of the editors of The Past in Visual Culture: Essays on Memory, Nostalgia and the Media (McFarland 2017) and has published work on Land Girls (BBC 2009 – 2011) and The Bletchley Circle (ITV 2012 – 2018) in Frames Cinema Journal (2015). Her broader research interests centre on the representation of gendered histories, postfeminism in contemporary culture, the role of the media in facilitating our engagement with and understanding of the past and the relationship between television and cultural memory.

Bruce Wilkinson was involved with the 1990s small press scene. Bruce co-edited Vertigo and contributed reviews to Bypass magazine which collated and contextualised British fanzines. Bruce's MA dissertation Beats, Poets, Renegades: A 1960s Northern Poetry Underground and its Countercultural Impact (2016) about a trio of poets and little magazine editors was developed into the book Hidden Culture, Forgotten History (Penniless Press, 2017). Described as being “…a useful edition to the growing field of little poetry magazine studies…” in the Times Literary Supplement and recommended as reading alongside the ‘A’ level curriculum in the Sociology Teacher’s Journal, his volume asserts that there is a whole strata of British literary culture awaiting exploration. Currently a fellow of the University of Manchester's John Rylands Research Institute Bruce is further developing his research through his work on the Dave Cunliffe archive and will continue this investigation via a doctorate at the same institution starting in 2019.

 Hidden Culture, Forgotten History is available via the publisher’s website: Bruce would encourage people to buy it through this source rather than through Amazon!


Map C284, 2nd floor Curzon B, Birmingham City University , Birmingham, United Kingdom
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