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Flashcards in The Media Deck (52):

What are the essential questions raised by the module?

- What is Historical fiction? Is it history?
Why does history have a prominent place in the Media?
- How much historical research should novelists, directors ect do?
- How important is historical accuracy?
- What is the relationship between popular history and academic history?


How can we define 'historical fiction'

Jerome de Groot

- not 'history' but 'modes of knowing the past
- the texts do engage with 'tropes of pastness'


How important is historical accuracy?

Jerome de Groot

Fictions, Groot argues, can be both ‘unrealistic’ and ‘popular’, but also ‘discursive spaces’ to debate ‘historical authority’


David Pearse on Historical fiction AND historical accuracy

‘Perhaps novels and their fictions are, perversely, the more ‘honest’ way to try to understand and write about the past…a novel will always, already be a work of fiction and thus can never claim to be the whole truth and nothing but the truth.’


Jerome de Groot and the 'Doctrine of Double Effect'

double effect : ’the recognition of something that once existed and its difference from the artistic rendering.’


Jerome de Groot on Historical accuracy

‘The past is not dead ground…History is always changing behind us, and the past changes every time we retell it. The most scrupulous historian is the unreliable narrator…Once this is understood, the trade of the historical novelist doesn’t seem so reprehensible or dubious; the only requirement is for conjecture to be plausible and grounded in the best facts one can get


Harlan on the popularity of Historical Fiction

On the state of it

On the causes of it

- a ‘golden age of popularisation’

- ‘The historical novelist creates a historical world so fully realised that her readers find themselves actually living in it, usually for days at a time.’



Why is historical fiction popular

In Thatcher Britain: —> ‘By turning their backs on the industrialised, chaotic present, they nostalgically reconstruct an imperialist and upper-class Britain'

'‘heritage space, rather than narrative space: that is, a space for the display of heritage properties rather than for the enactment of dramas. '
- ' more akin to that mode of early filmmaking that Tom Gunning calls the cinema of attractions'


Evidence of historical accuracy in historical dramas

Catherine Fletcher, Adapting Wolf Hall for TV: how I played historical guessing game

1) Evidence of Tudor material culture is scarce. Historical dramas may not fall far behind academic history in depicting 'the truth' (so far as we know it). Much religious depiction destroyed in the Reformation

2) Wolf hall used expert researchers (CATHERINE FLETCHER) and went to painstaking efforts to reconstruct Tudor material culture


Robert Rosenstone on historical accuracy on screen

In his seminal work on history on screen, Visions of the Past, Robert Rosenstone argued that by its nature historical film (at least of the mainstream type) is obliged to invent. When we don’t know what an interior looked like, we have to create and imagine. But there is “true invention” – which engages with the historical record – and “false invention” – which does not.


Case study on Historical innacuracy:


1) The role of LBJ as discussed by David Kaiser in Why You Should Care That Selma Gets LBJ Wrong:

- LBJ had other priorities. He wanted to pursue more great society legislation, including a 'war on poverty', and a Voting Rights Act would jeopardise that
- LBJ and MLK had spoken cordially about voting rights in december and january
- It was only later, when MLK began to oppose the Vietnam war, that the two came to a head

2) The 'cinematic narrative' overplays the role of MLK and suggests a linear progression towards racial equality

The dominant narrative tended to make Martin Luther King its central figure...DuVernay’s narrative of the movement may have eliminated the white saviour, but it
tacitly proposes the need for a black one in the person of Martin Luther King. Yet others, often associated with SNCC and CORE, argued that the King tradition diminished the importance of community organizing of a participatory nature.....

- ‘How long? Not long’: Selma, Martin Luther King
and civil rights narratives RICHARD H. KING on the Memphis to Montgomery narrative

- Jacqueline Dowd Hall’s influential 2005 article ‘The Long Civil Rights Movement and the Political Uses of
the Past’.


Practical problems with historical dramas
‘How long? Not long’: Selma, Martin Luther King
and civil rights narratives RICHARD H. KING on the Memphis to Montgomery narrative

Hollywood has always had a problem with films about the Civil Rights Movement.
Obviously, there has been a problem financing them. That is, how can
they be made palatable to white southern audiences, in particular, and to
white Americans, in general?


Benefits of historical drama

‘How long? Not long’: Selma, Martin Luther King
and civil rights narratives RICHARD H. KING on the Memphis to Montgomery narrative

Selma palpably lack the aura of authenticity linked with newsreel footage that in turn contributes to the verisimilitude of the film. On the other hand, a documentary does not take us inside the home, much less into the bedroom. We have no newsreel footage of private moments when the subtleties of intimate exchanges are explored.


D. Harlan, The Future of Academic History


A ‘map’ of the new territory of history (popular history)
‘The Territory of the Historian’ should identify the provinces it encompasses and the territorial codes that govern them

---> Popular history necessitates new strategies by academic historians


Editorial: History in the graphic novel
Hugo Frey & Benjamin Noys

Key arguments on the Graphic Novel and the significance of MAUS

It was the publication of one work, more than any other, which transformed the status of the graphic novel: Art Spiegelman’s Maus (1986, 1991)

Graphical novel gives more legitimacy to the work than the term 'comic'


Hayden White on Maus

a ‘masterpiece of stylization, figuration, and allegorization’ (1992: 41–2) and a ‘critically self-conscious’ (1992: 42)


Art Spiegelman (author of Maus) on comics


‘One of the problems is that the word comics itself brings to mind the notion that they have to be funny. [. . .] I prefer the word co-mix, to mix together, because to talk about comics is to talk about mixing together words and pictures that tell a story’

"[r]eality is too much for comics ... so much has to be left out or distorted"


Madness or Modernity?: The Holocaust in Two
Anglo-American Comics - Robert Eaglestone

On Donna Barr’s 'Desert Peach', which predates Maus

If, with the genre of representations of the past, there is an axis with, at one end, the detailed research that is taken to be central to the discipline of history...and at the
other end, the sort of representations in some past and current popular culture which amount to little more than people in the present ‘dressing up’ in historical clothes... then Desert Peach....tends toward that end.

....fiction, and is not pretending to offer an account
that can be held to trial by the genre of history.


- The story Barr is telling here about the Holocaust is the ‘good German’ story: that, although the SS and Nazi High Command were perpetrators in the genocide, the ‘Honourable’ German army were bystanders who did not
commit atrocities.

- However, recent work on the Holocaust and the role of the army by Omer Bartov, Martin Dean and others (empirical historians) tells a different story: while the army was not as ideologically motivated as the SS, they argue that it certainly was involved in massacres and war crimes – part of the Nazi Genocide.


Madness or modernity?: The Holocaust in two
Anglo-American comics
Robert Eaglestone

On Maus

But the power and originality of Spiegelman's effort derive quite specifically from this shock of obscenity which demands that we confront "the Holocaust" as visual representation


Amy Holdsworth, 'Who do you think you are? Family history and British Television'

On the significance of 'reality television'

‘…rather than viewing [emotionalism] as a marker of the 'dumbing down' of television, the elicitation of emotion, at least within BBC discourses, became thee key to their value.’
Both celebrity and emotionality are central to the promotion of WDYTYA


Successes and Failures of WDYTYA

Amy Holdsworth, 'Who do you think you are? Family history and British Television'

Increased interest in history?
According to the report, 7 per cent of UK adults claimed to have started researching their family history for the first time in the two months after the transmission of the first series
18 per cent increase in first-time visitors to the National Archive website (in the last quarter of 2004 versus the last quarter of 2003).


Whilst in some ways the programme opens up a productive engagement with personal and national history and memory, the overemphasis on catharsis and closure - the endpoint of the therapeutic narrative - closes down further investigation into the more difficult stories.

‘decline of factual programming and a concession to populism’ - Catherine Johnson


Evidence for a 'Renaissance' in public History, and the challenges it poses

Hunt, T., ‘Reality, Identity and Empathy: The Changing Face of Social History Television’, Journal of Social History, 39:3 (2006), 843-858

- In the media
- Heritage sites (nat trust, country houses)
- Living history in UK/USA

- Increased study of history at 6th form and university


the past a ‘lucrative commodity’ for the media, but to the detriment of ‘social purpose, analytical rigour, contemporary relevance.’

So, Hunt argues: ‘The challenge for social historians is to marshal today's energetic and accelerating interest in the past towards more fundamental questions of structure and progress’


Tristram Hunt on the difference between Television History and Academic History

Hunt, T., ‘Reality, Identity and Empathy: The Changing Face of Social History Television’, Journal of Social History, 39:3 (2006), 843-858

- oriented around biography, battles and quick-fire narrative dramas
- ‘very little space’ for social history
- ‘strong personal narrative’ for individuals to identify with
-'The purpose of television history is to entertain, educate and excite.'
- more on historical controversy
- more methodology
- limited audience: requires access, developed understanding and appreciation of 'polemical interjection'


What criticisms does Tristram Hunt make of Social History?

Hunt, T., ‘Reality, Identity and Empathy: The Changing Face of Social History Television’, Journal of Social History, 39:3 (2006), 843-858

- 'very little space' for Social History
- ‘White, male individuals are the rain-makers of the past with marginalised people, ideas, social structures or processes making only fleeting appearances’
- little focus on ‘longe durée’, or on social/intellectual/economic context

‘Blair Worden, invites us "not to think, not to exercise our imaginations, but to gawp”


How do social Historians need to engage with Television History

Hunt, T., ‘Reality, Identity and Empathy: The Changing Face of Social History Television’, Journal of Social History, 39:3 (2006), 843-858

Social historians need to develop intellectual mechanisms to apply their topics and methodological concerns within the medium's stylistic constraints.


Digital History, David Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig

On the importance of the internet

The World Wide Web, they argue, is not only more open to a global audience of history readers but also to history authors. Given the low barrier to entry,they suggest that that Internet has given ‘a much louder and more public voice to amateur historians’.


Ho, Stephanie, ‘Blogging as Popular History Making, Blogs as Public History: A Singapore Case Study’, Public History Review, 14 (2007), 64-79.

On the Significance of Blogging

. I argue that blogging is a new form of popular history making that enables ordinary people a greater degree of participation in public history making.


What are the advantages of blogging?

Ho, Stephanie, ‘Blogging as Popular History Making, Blogs as Public History: A Singapore Case Study’, Public History Review, 14 (2007), 64-79.

Advantages of Blogs
Greater freedom of expression than television
Huge international audience
Encourages more democratic history making process, therefore public history


The growth of blogging

Ho, Stephanie, ‘Blogging as Popular History Making, Blogs as Public History: A Singapore Case Study’, Public History Review, 14 (2007), 64-79.

History of Blogging
Explosive growth
In 1998, there were less than 50 known blogs worldwide. But in October 2006, the Technorati blog search engine was tracking 57.4 million blogs in cyberspace.
Blogging’s rate of growth has also reached astounding levels. Technorati estimates that about 75,000 new blogs and 1.2 million posts are made daily and about 50,000 blog updates are made every hour.


Case Study: Blogging in Singapore

Ho, Stephanie, ‘Blogging as Popular History Making, Blogs as Public History: A Singapore Case Study’, Public History Review, 14 (2007), 64-79.

- Public History in Singapore
Public history is censored and controlled by the state
- State produced textbook, and mandatory study of history with state-directed curriculum
‘National Heritage Board’ runs heritage sites and museums
—> ‘Given this tightly controlled environment, there are few public arenas for ordinary Singaporeans to express their opinions, views and thoughts, especially those that may challenge state narratives.’

Good Morning Yesterday written by 53 year old Lam Chun See - important but still some self-censorship

CF TO ''
- Launched by National Heritage Board and Museum Roundtables Committee in 2006
- Dec 2006,
22/34 written by ‘Friends’ (founding members) of Yesterday
Only 8 comments (compared to 64 for Yam)
- NHB as gatekeeper: you have to register, agree to T+Cs
Overall corporate tone

- ‘Challenge…will come when bloggers venture beyond the safe arena of memory and nostalgia and create histories that are incompatible with state narratives. It remains to be seen whether the state will treat it as ‘internet chatter’ or bring in the long arm of the law


James Gilray 1756-1815

- Early satirist of
Charles Fox depicted as an actual Fox


Pre-Maus Holocaust comics:

Nicola Streeten

Horst Rosenthal, Michey AU CAMP DE GURS

Rosenthal a prisoner in Gurs internment camp, France

- shows the stupidity of camp life
- Mouse shows simplicity
- Distance from reality provides relief from the horror of the holacaust


The importance of omission of content in graphic novels

Nicola Steeten

- we may easily 'be seduced into thinking of comics as a light-hearted ephemeral type of entertainment, rather than a medium with politically powerful resonance. For this very exclusion demonstrates the possibilities of the form as a tool for supporting dominant ideologies.

- Ommission of the 'Jewish Voice', Genocide, in American 'Captain America' comics, which instead stress valour and heroism


Heroism and tragedy in graphic novels

Nicola Streeten

- Ommission of the 'Jewish Voice', Genocide, in American 'Captain America' comics, which instead stress valour and heroism

For example, Cover of Captain America punching Hitler in the face


C.f. to Maus...'it was random'


Holocaust (1983) as evidence that History in the media can lead to more substantial engagement

Nicola Streeten

Holocaust (1983) with Meryl Streep
- 'Jewish narrative'
- Criticised by survivors for its 'soap opera style'

- oral history projects followed it
- led to US Holocaust Memorial Museum
- Led to comics like Maus


Schama defending his popular television work

Try it, Buster. See how unbelievably demanding it is. Anyone can write
an academic piece directed at other academics. To write something that
delivers an argument and a gripping storyline to someone’s granny or
eight-year-old takes the highest quality of your powers. I am completely
unrepentant. One should not feel shifty


Tanya Evans on the Importance of Television

Television is superbly placed to do this and, like
others, I argue that television has a crucial role to play in the representation of
radical history and the democratisation of historical knowledge.


Tanya Evans, working as a historical consultant for WDYTYA

Work as ‘expert talent’ for Who Do You Think You Are? is not like working as a talking head on other programmes. Participants are brought in to provide expert knowledge on a specific subject


There is no control over how a celebrity will interpret the information
and what the result might be.

Crucially, the programme highlights the unknowability of the past. Celebrities are often confronted by the limits of the historical record, the gaps and silences that can never be filled, no matter the limitlessness of their resources and research assistance


Tayna Evans on social history and WDYTYA

In conclusion, I suggest that Who Do You Think You Are? represents radical history
on television. It is an excellent example of the ways in which social history can
transform people’s lives in the present. T


List off some historical movies and TV shows

Movies based on real events

Movies placed within historical context that may allow us to learn historical lessons

- 'Selma'
- 'The King's Speech'
- 'Ghandi'
- Wolf Hall
- The Crown
- The Tudors
- Rome
- Versailles
- Lincoln

In a historical context
- The Help
- Do the Right Thing


- Historical accuracy in movies, according to David Zarefsky


Lincoln and Historical Accuracy
David Zarefsky

Historical films are not simply depictions of “what happened.” There always is an element of artistic license, choices of selection or emphasis or modes of presentation, to enhance the appeal the film can make to its audience.


Some concerns are simple matters of fact: the Connecticut delegation voted for the Thirteenth Amendment, whereas the film depicts them as voting against.

Some are matters of probability: it is highly unlikely that Lincoln would have slapped his son Robert, as the film depicts.

Some are matters of exaggeration: even in an age of elaborate personal attacks on the floor of Congress, the tone of debate was more indirect and at least superficially polite than the film depicts.

Some are matters of misplaced certainty: Thaddeus Stevens’s liaison with his housekeeper, though rumored, was neither proved nor disproved.

Some are matters of artistic invention: there is no record of what was said in the personal conversations between Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.


How does the History and Policy Website demonstrate impact?

- Statistics: quantifiable results given on homepage for number of historians and papers

- Current Affairs: writing on events recently in the news


Examples of history documentaries

- Britain's forgotten slave owners
- Starkey Monarchy
- Schama A History of Britain
- Tony Robinson The Worst Jobs in History


Interview with Ian Kershaw on History documentaries as popular television

And these TV programmes – when we did ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’, ‘War of the Century’ and ‘Auschwitz’, I think we got an average of about four million viewers a show on that. And that’s a lot for a specialist documentary.

I think there’s been a lot of good popular history. Look at things like Simon Schama’s ‘History of Britain’ – who could say that’s a bad thing really? There’s some rubbish among TV historical documentaries, certainly, but, by and large, there’s an awful lot of good stuff as well and my own view is that more historians ought to try to break into this.

It doesn’t mean to say you have to travesty what you’re trying to say. You simply have to put it in terms that non-specialists can understand. After all, we’re writing history not nuclear physics, and it ought to be accessible to large numbers of people.

I mean, ‘The Nazis: A Warning from History’ has reached – with videos and DVDs and so on – more than 50 million people. There’s no history book, however good it is or how much a bestseller, that’s going to reach 50 million people. TV’s a powerful medium – it’s a shallow medium, admittedly, but a powerful one and the best thing is to utilise it.


Academic History in Practice

WDYTYA - Nick Hewitt

- Methodology: doing historical research becomes entertainment
- Good practice: 'ad fontes', manuscript
- Cautious eye of professional historians: Alex Craven: 'we need to be slightly careful, we're only getting one side of the story'

- Drawing the personal narrative into the bigger picture - a digression to Charles I's finances in the Personal Rule


Academic History in Practice

The Nazis, a Warning from History: 'Helped into Power'

Digress from narrative of Hitler's trial for the Beer Hall Putch (1924) to show archive documents relating to an earlier trial for Hitler and the Leniency of his judge

Shows methodology to the audience, refers to archive material, and encourages the audience to be mindful of the sources of their information.

Presents former members of Nazi party, gives quotes to support assertions (such as Hitler was a strong believer in natural selection)

Historical Consultant, Ian Kershaw


Umberto Ecco, the Name of the Rose


- 'I am comforted and consoled in finding it immeasurably remote in time...gloriously lacking in any relevance for our day.'

told 'for sheer narrative pleasure'


Jermone de Groot, The Historical Novel

-Indeed, the intergeneric hybridity and flexibility of historical fiction have long been one of its defining characteristics. A historical novel might consider the articulation of nationhood via the past, high- light the subjectivism of narratives of History, underline the importance of the realist mode of writing to notions of authenticity, question writing itself, and attack historiographical convention.


Alessandro Manzoni, The Historical Novel

'the historical novelist is required to give not just the bare bones of history, but something richer, more complete. In a way you want him to put the flesh back on the skeleton that is history'


Nield's introduction to his Guide to the Best Historical Novels and Tales (1902)

Novels allow us to be 'hoodwinked' into knowing the 'spirit of an age' that is, truly, lost

But (Groot), the audience is 'hoodwinked' with their collusion


Phillipa Gregory

The Other Boleyn Girl

Adapted for movie: Neither entertaining nor educational. With wooden performances, clumsy dialogue and a total disregard for the facts and feel of the Tudor age, The Other Boleyn Girl is basically an extended episode of Hollyoaks in fancy dress.

(Alison Weir)


Peter Schjeldahl on 'A Contract with God', Will Eisner

Art critic Peter Schjeldahl saw the "over-the-topness" endemic to American comics, and Eisner's work, as "ill suited to serious subjects, especially those that incorporate authentic social history"