Different pasts, foreign countries: Remembering and recreating lost worlds in fiction, media and history

Hsu-Ming Teo's picture
September 7, 2018
Subject Fields: 
Literature, Film and Film History, Journalism and Media Studies, Popular Culture Studies, Cultural History / Studies

This is a one day symposium organized by the Centre for Applied History and the Department of English, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” This famous opening sentence from L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between (1953) provokes questions of how the “pastness” of the past is remembered, recuperated and represented, especially in this postmodern age where the complications of reconstructing a plausible past are well-known: the problems of erratic and unreliable memory, for example; (hi)stories that are created from fragments of archival evidence and oral interviews; the deliberate choices writers make in emplotting historical narratives, whether fiction or nonfiction; and the role of the writer’s imagination in bringing a past world to life and making it relevant to a present-day audience – the task, in empiricist historian Herbert Butterfield’s words, of transforming a “heap of broken fragments” or a “jumble of pictures” caught from the windows of a passing train into the “spirit of the age” and a “literature of power”. 

This one-day symposium focuses on how the lost worlds of the past are conceptualised and created in literature, film, television, digital media, art and history. We are particularly interested in the construction of historical worlds through narrative/story-telling in different genres and media. Possible topics include:

  • close readings of historical fiction that explore the construction of particular communities
  • analyses of the mise-en-scène or diegetic world of historical narratives
  • the construction of Bakhtinian chronotopes of the past
  • how a particular medium or narrative genre influences and/or creates the historical world being represented
  • narratives of counterfactual history that re-imagine or re-invent past worlds
  • the generic and narratological interplay between literary and historical writing
  • reconstructing the narrative worlds of the individual, family or community through biography, oral history, family and community history
  • the “archival turn” in narrativising and/or visually representing past worlds
  • any other topic related to remembering and recreating past worlds

Please send a 150-200 word proposal to hsuming.teo@mq.edu.au or stephanie.russo@mq.edu.au by Friday, May 4, 2018.

Contact Info: 

Associate Professor Hsu-Ming Teo or Dr Stephanie Russo

Department of English

Macquarie University 

Sydney NSW 2109


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