The past in the present and the present in the past : representing history and performing memory on television and in everyday life
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Moving from the basic assumption that media and television are vital sites of memory, pivotal spaces in which we learn about the past, this thesis argues that the most productive and progressive representations of the past are those that allow the past to interact with the present. Yet the past is not simply a representation in the present, it is also performed as cultural memory. One of the key concepts here is the idea that if we do indeed find historical knowledge on television and in everyday life as well as in museums and textbooks, then we might apply the concepts, roles and institutions of the museum, concepts like the archive and the curator, to television and historical consciousness in everyday life. Through this logic television programs are archives and audiences are curators, selecting music and fashions from the representation of the past and using them, performing them in everyday life. To explore this, I begin with textual analyses of the television shows American Dreams and Mad Men. Examinations of music and fashion in each show then gives way to inquiries into how the musical and sartorial artifacts contained in each program are brought out into everyday life. While these chapters primarily consider gendered histories and feminist cultural memories, I conclude with a consideration of racial histories, silenced memories and how unique juxtapositions can point to alternative archives and repertoires.