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Abstracts and Papers

Nostalgia
2nd Inclusive Interdisciplinary Conference
31 July – 1 August 2021
Online Conference via ShockLogic


ABSTRACT & PAPERS

Sleeping (with) Nostalgia Atari, Blockbuster Video and “Retro” Accommodation
André Habib
Université de Montréal, Canada

Key Words:
Blockbuster; Video Stores; Retro-gaming; Nostalgic Accommodation; Legacy-branding; Homer’s Odyssey.

In January 2020, shortly before the pandemic broke out, “Atari” announced the opening, in 2021-2022, of an elaborate “Atari Hotels” complex in Phoenix, Arizona, the very first video-game themed hotel. According to a member of the project, the idea behind this initiative would be to “attract both those seeking nostalgia and those competing in the e-sports world.” On August 11th 2020, 8 months into the pandemic, the last standing Blockbuster video store, in Bend, Oregon, made a stunning appearance on AirBnb, offering the possibility for residents of the county to book one of three quarantine pods inside the store for a “socially distanced movie night.” According the USA Today reporter, the manager of the Blockbuster is “offering movie lovers of a certain age the chance to relive a nostalgic, pre-Netflix summer sleepover.” These two recent examples seem to be concerned with many similar things, but in particular, a common understanding of nostalgia, entertainment and beds. In both cases, they give the visitor the chance to house, sleep and play inside nostalgia. If, historically, the sickness that went under the name of nostalgia was cured by sending the home-sick person (usually a soldier) back home, today, it seems nostalgia is rather a place in time that one aches to return to in order to cure ourselves. The very common contemporary disease of loss of purpose, meaning and history can maybe be remedied through an act of nostalgising (Niemeyer, 2014, Sedikides 2015). In this case, “nostalgising” consists of going to a “place” where one can replay the past, on a retro console or a VHS. Hence, this “place” is embodied by an aesthetic, colours, a visual style, but also, via a technology. This technology becomes the watermark of a moment in time (70’s, 80’s, 90’s) often associated with childhood and that allows us to escape the present and/or make it more tolerable. As a nostalgia-driven ad campaign for a 2D RPG & Persona Style Game called Spleen rhetorically asks: “Can nostalgia save us from melancholy?”

This paper will analyse these two isolated examples, by considering
1) the role of the pandemic on “nostalgic accommodation” (past and future);
2) the (new) positioning of legacy-brands in the new commodity economy (Kodak, Polaroid, Fisher Price) where very often it is less the product that is at stake than a “life-style” (what you wear, how you dream, and maybe, how you sleep);
3) the relation between these contemporary modes of sleeping nostalgia and older ones. In particular, I hope to briefly discuss the status of Ulysses’ bed in the Odyssey which he longs for and that confirms his “return home” (Cassin 2013)


Nostalgia
Barbara Gabriella Renzi
Technische Hochschule Cologne, Germany

Nostalgia: looking for an experiential definition of flesh and blood that is not as fluctuating as water and that can not only be communicated but also felt remains perhaps too difficult a goal to achieve. So, let us play the game of mirrors, or rather the distorted reflection in the mirror, with a phenological flavour. I am the mirror that reflects, transforms, sleeps, recounts, and juxtaposes the migratory nostalgic experience of several generations of migrant Italian poets. This paper reflects the concept of nostalgia in a distorted light through the poems of Giovanni Pascoli, Dino campana, Giovanni Rodari, Gezim Hajdari, and the “Canto delle Aquile” of an Arberesh village in Italy, promising only the reflection of the fluctuating definition of nostalgia.


“Before the outbreak of what used to be known as the Great War:” ‘Ironic’ Nostalgia in Isabel Colegate’s The Shooting Party (1980)
Cristina Pividori
Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

Key Words:
World War One, Englishness, Isabel Colegate, ironic nostalgia, The Shooting Party

Isabel Colegate’s The Shooting Party was published in 1980, at the height of Thatcherism, but still offers a valuable mirror in which to examine what constitutes “genuine” Englishness, particularly to those interested in understanding the underlying reasons behind English nationalism and Brexit in recent years. Colegate chooses a traditional plot: twenty-four hours in the life of a shooting party taking place at an Oxfordshire estate in October 1913, just before World War One. The novel is both a nostalgic recreation of pre-war innocence and a gloomy harbinger of a greater (and bloodier) shooting party: the war. Although it has not reached the popularity of other literary efforts addressing similar issues, like Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited (1945) or Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989), The Shooting Party too has relied on nostalgia to explore a pre-war England that has been largely effaced by authorized histories and narratives of the Great War. Yet rather than adopting a conservative or a progressive approach to the past, Colegate seems to simultaneously advocate and challenge the nostalgic hegemony of postmodern memory by granting protagonism to both sides of the social divide: masters and servants. Based on what Linda Hutcheon calls the “ironic double vision” of postmodern nostalgia, that is to say the idea that postmodern writers may invoke the past, “but always with the kind of ironic double vision that acknowledges the final impossibility of indulging in nostalgia, even as it consciously evokes nostalgia’s effective power,” this paper will explore the legacy of the Edwardian social fabric and interrogate the reasons for the collapse of its certainties. I contend that Colegate reconceptualises the past in the process of looking back into it, and that ironic nostalgia is crucial to the rediscovery of an ethos that was thrown into disarray by the First World War and never recaptured its former strength.


Dear Grandfather, An Archive in Search of Your Absence
Avantika Seth
Independent Researcher, India

Key Words:
Archive, Memory, Family Baggage, Generational Trauma, Life History, Absence, Search, Longing, Life and Death

My grandfather passed away when I was just over a year old. Growing up, I was introduced to Daddy through stories of all kinds from all sorts of people, and especially from my dark grandmother whom he despised for a great deal of his life because of the colour of her skin.

25 years later, I decided to archive these stories. Stories of not only his life and death, but also stories of our family history, trauma, baggage, and failed relationships.

Dear Grandfather is a collection of oral history interviews, physical objects, archival photographs, diary notes, published writings, and audio recordings that aims to archive the life and death of my grandfather, who was a poet, a writer, and a worshipper of Shakespeare and Urdu. The project focuses on archiving our family history, generational trauma and baggage, and interpersonal relationships in light of the decolonization of India, the rise of Independence, freedom of choice and destiny, and social transition.

Currently, the project has taken the form of an audio essay (performance), which juxtaposes the research material with my own musings and longing to know beyond his life and death. Very carefully, the archive aims at weaving a thread through my life and that of Daddy, which seems to run parallel despite being set in different eras.

The long-term idea of the project is to exhibit Daddy’s life journey in the same house (converting it into a museum) that was bought by him in the hills of Simla (the British Summer Capital of India), where he wrote poetry and prose about life, death, and the world events of his time. The same house carries with it a rich history of Simla’s colonial past, intertwined with the life and death of my grandfather.


Pastoral Nostalgia and Identity: Farming the Music of Stardew Valley
Alicia Corts
Saint Leo University, USA

Stardew Valley, a popular farming game, has consistently been recognized as a video game that encourages players to have a better sense of self-esteem, even going so far as alleviating some symptoms of depression (Fändriks).

Within the game space, one of the most popular elements of Stardew is its soundtrack, a languorous, sensual collection of melodies that eases the player into the idyllic world of the game. While research has suggested that music can enhance wellbeing and a
sense of flow (See for example Johnson, Wyeth, and Sweetser; Vella, Johnson, and Hides; and Yee), I argue that music goes beyond the simple suggestion of wellbeing to actively engaging the player in identity creation tied to a nostalgic understanding of self.

Ulf Wilhemsson proposes that playing a game gradually begins a process of building a new identity known as the “game ego.” Through the various game requirements, players build a sense of who they are within the game space, a process that over a period of time results in the player believing they belong within the space of the video game world. Understanding that a game ego can begin to affect the gamer’s physical world existence (Yee and Bailenson), players of Stardew Valley are able to explore their identity in a pastoral setting.

Stardew Valley belongs to the farming genre of games, and its designer, Eric Barone, specifically references the nostalgic with a design reminiscent of earlier video games. Laura Op de Beke contends that this nostalgic design forces players to contend with the pastoral tension between individuality and community. As players move through this world, I argue that this tension leads to a sense of equilibrium between these competing notions, giving the player a sense of self-worth and comfort. While some research points to the graphic design as the source of this nostalgic well-being, I suggest that the soundtrack becomes the link between the game world and the physical world, a remembrance of the simpler days of childhood. In combination, the music and graphic design leads players into a calm, pastoral place where the pressures of the industrial world are alleviated.


Nonhuman Spectacles: Identity, Nostalgia, and Tradition in the Kentucky Derby and J.K. Rowling’s Triwizard Tournament
Kayla Adgate
SUNY Brockport, USA

Key Words:
Animal Studies, Nostalgia, Tradition, Spectacle, Sports, Kentucky Derby, Harry Potter

Equine racing is one example of a nonhuman spectacle, a term I employ in this analysis to denote any competition or performance that utilizes the nonhuman for the purposes of entertainment and the acquisition of financial or social capital. Nonhuman spectaclisation is a transformative process that often involves the estrangement of the nonhuman from the natural sphere and the manipulation of inherent nonhuman behaviours to appease spectators and other human stakeholders. Examples of nonhuman spectacles include competitive sports such as hunting, fishing tournaments, and nonhuman racing, and extend to activities that socially construct nonhumans as performers such as circus acts that focalize the nonhuman or marine mammal performances. To better conceptualize the implications of the nonhuman spectacle in literature and in culture, this analysis considers the representation of the nonhuman animal in the American Kentucky Derby and J.K. Rowling’s Triwizard Tournament from her novel Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000). Historian James C. Nicholson considers the Kentucky Derby “America’s greatest sports spectacle” and argues the Derby is not “just a horse race,” but a “mediator between Kentucky’s mythic past and modern society” (46, 6-7). Likewise, Rowling’s Triwizard Tournament is more than a series of competitive tasks between humans and nonhumans, but a political spectacle embedded within a complex web of competing national identities. By examining nonhuman representations in the Triwizard Tournament alongside social representations of nonhumans in the Kentucky Derby, I argue nonhuman spectacles endure not only for the acquisition of wealth and financial gain, but through the cultural mechanisms of nostalgia, identity, and tradition. In this cultural context, nostalgia, tradition, and identity are social mechanisms complicit in the suffering of nonhuman animals because they inhibit and obscure the ethical and moral consideration of the nonhuman in society.


Storytelling Through Materials: Listening to Nostalgic Recounting Through Present to Past, and Back Again
Catherine Glover
Northumbria University, UK

Key Words:
story, storytelling, fashion, nostalgia, material, history, activism

What is it that makes us come alive when we touch our garments? What is the connection between fabric and soul, the pathway that re-connects experiencing selves with remembering selves (Kahneman, 2011)? This research explores the connection between materials and storytelling, through a series of case-study interviews that shares and reflects on individuals explaining their clothing to an audience. The range of individuals includes a fashion activist reminiscing about the meaning of her wardrobe, a Gen Z fashion communication student explaining her jacket which is typographically printed with Gen Z values, and a 95-year-old Grandma showing her granddaughter her wedding veil. Using narrative inquiry to share ‘stories as lived and told’ (Clandinin and Connelly, 2000), it looks at the simple case of character + object, and the vehicle of storytelling. It uses as a framework Jerome Bruner’s (2002) list of universal story components, which importantly includes the coda of ‘retrospective evaluation of what it all might mean, a feature that also returns the hearer or reader from the there and then of the narrative, to the here and now of the telling.’ In this, nostalgia can be found in the retrospective ‘throwback’, and recorded in the storytelling of the present, as materialised in fashion fabrics and garments, and memorialised in action. This research suggests that rather than nostalgia being ‘pigeon-holed as an ossifying emotion that entrenches the individual in the past’ (Sedikides et al, 2016) or that its etymology of nosos and algos [Greek] is singularly apposite, that instead – when communicating the social life of materials through storytelling – nostalgia can represent catharsis in the present, and an experiencing of self through space. It is history as incandescent story, enacted through embodied storytelling.


Modern Time Travellers: Neo-Edwardian Style and Sense of Nostalgia
Daria Romanova
Independent Researcher, Russia

Drawing on my master’s thesis in Fashion Studies, this paper demonstrates how people transform and embody their identities through garments acting as living images and motifs of “past” to negotiate the meanings of their clothing, appearances, and personalities in the present. The focus of the study is on the contemporary phenomenon of adapting motifs of a bygone style – Edwardian fashion (1901-1910) – to daily or a near-daily sartorial practice, defined by the author as Neo-Edwardian style. The paper focuses on the ethnographic fieldwork I carried out for the thesis project, that involved four study participants who engage in practicing the neo-Edwardian style. The theoretical basis of the research draws on a number of concepts, namely: Judith Butler’s concept of performativity, Merleu-Ponty notion of embodiment, and Gilles Deleuze’s act of becoming. I argue that the state of being a neo-Edwardian is a state of perpetual becoming as the practitioners of the neo-Edwardian style are not “Edwardians” per se, but rather become associated with that historical era through clothing associations with the particular aesthetic. The findings show that when individuals adorn themselves in period attire on a daily basis, these garments are no longer costumes but rather clothing, which implies the development of a certain intimate relationship between garments and the body. The latter is perceived as a dynamic system, capable of forming specific relations with both the clothing and with other bodies within the social realm. The study also seeks to answer a question “can nostalgia be an ideological ground for an emerging style?” The analysis dwells on the connections between the adaptation of bygone aesthetics and a sense of longing for “better times”: the garments are perceived as the bearers of nostalgic cues by expressing associations with the past and sufficiently providing the sense of time travel.


Cottagecore Lesbians, Drag Queens in Hoop Skirts, and Other New Neo-Victorianisms
Lorraine Rumson
Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

Over the last hundred years, “Victorian values” have been used as shorthand for an array of socially conservative values: the nuclear family, religious traditionalism, sexual repression, gender binarism. However, this use of the term “Victorian” is hardly an accurate reflection of England’s nineteenth century — a period marked by religious disillusionment, legal and medical upheaval surrounding gender and sexuality, and shifting family structures. Instead, this use has reflected a nostalgia in socially conservative elements of society, for a past that they perceived as more in line with their values.

With the nineteenth century well over a hundred years in the rear-view mirror, people are rewriting the iconography of the nineteenth century to embody new cultural values. In this presentation, I will discuss specifically the use of Victorian aesthetics to embody a focus on and celebration of femininity often absent from patriarchal culture, especially through the “#cottagecore” aesthetic that gained prominence during the COVID-19 lockdowns. This celebration of femininity involves woman-run spaces, communalism rather than capitalism, queer relationships, and engagement in “traditionally feminine” pastimes like baking and embroidery. The distinctive and self-identified queerness of #cottagecore content sets it at odds with conservative tastemakers who have celebrated similar iconography, and demonstrate ways in which nostalgia for the same period can be put to distinctively different ideological usages.

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