The Anatomy of Memory Politics: A Formalist Analysis of Tate Britain’s ‘Artist and Empire’ and the Struggle over Britain’s Imperial Past

Article


Woods, E. T. 2019. The Anatomy of Memory Politics: A Formalist Analysis of Tate Britain’s ‘Artist and Empire’ and the Struggle over Britain’s Imperial Past. American Journal of Cultural Sociology.
AuthorsWoods, E. T.
Abstract

In this paper, I propose a new approach for understanding the meaning of memory politics, which draws upon the archetypal literary criticism of Northrop Frye. I suggest that the four archetypes elaborated by Frye—comedy, romance, tragedy, and satire—can be used as a heuristic device for interpreting the contested historical narratives that are associated with the politics of memory. I illustrate this approach through a case-study of Artists and Empire: Facing Britain’s Imperial Past, an exhibition held at Tate Britain in 2016, amidst increasing contestation over the meaning of the British Empire. In sum, I find that the exhibit narrated Britain’s imperial past as a comedy, in which a key theme was the progressive cultural mixing of the British and the people they colonized. To conclude, I discuss the implications of such a narrative for constructing an inclusive, postcolonial British identity. As an alternative, I draw on Aristotle to suggest that a tragic narrative would have been more propitious.

JournalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociology
ISSN2049-7121
Year2019
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Anyone
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1057/s41290-019-00081-y
Web address (URL)https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-019-00081-y
Publication dates
Online23 Aug 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted05 Jun 2019
Deposited03 Sep 2019
Copyright holder© Springer Nature Limited 2019
Copyright informationThis is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in American Journal of Cultural Sociology. The definitive publisher-authenticated version Woods, E.T. (2019) The Anatomy of Memory Politics: A Formalist Analysis of Tate Britain’s ‘Artist and Empire’ and the Struggle over Britain’s Imperial Past, American Journal of Cultural Sociology (In Press) pp. xx-xx. is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41290-019-00081-y.
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https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/86z65

Accepted author manuscript

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