Film, history and cultural memory: cinematic representations of Vietnam-era America during the culture wars, 1987-1995

Burton, James Amos (2008) Film, history and cultural memory: cinematic representations of Vietnam-era America during the culture wars, 1987-1995. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Abstract

My thesis is intended as an intellectual opportunity to take what, I argue, are the "dead ends" of work on the history film in a new direction. I examine cinematic representations of the Vietnam War-era America (1964-1974) produced during the "hot" culture wars (1987-1995). I argue that disagreements among historians and commentators concerning the (mis)representation of history on screen are stymied by either an over-emphasis on factual infidelity, or by dismissal of such concerns as irrelevant. In contradistinction to such approaches, I analyse this group of films in the context of a fluid and negotiated cultural memory. I argue that the consumption of popular films becomes part of a vast intertextual mosaic of remembering and forgetting that is constantly redefining, and reimagining, the past. Representations of history in popular film affect the industrial construction of cultural memory, but Hollywood's intertextual relay of promotion and accompanying wider media discourses also contributes to a climate in which film impacts upon collective memory. I analyse the films firmly within the discursive moment of their production (the culture wars), the circulating promotional discourses that accompany them, and the always already circulating notions of their subjects.

The introduction outlines my methodological approach and provides an overview of the relationship between the twinned discursive moments. Subsequent chapters focus on representations of returning veterans; representations of the counterculture and the anti-war protest movement; and the subjects foregrounded in the biopics of the period. The fourth chapter examines Forrest Gump as a meta-sixties film and as the fulcrum of my thesis. The final chapter posits that an uplifting version of the sixties has begun to dominate as the most successful type of production in the post-Gump marketplace.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Supervisors:Monteith, S.J.
Grainge, P.
Faculties/Schools:UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of American and Canadian Studies
ID Code:493
Deposited By:James Amos Burton
Deposited On:09 Jun 2008
Last Modified:18 Feb 2009 14:18

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