Retrophilia, Nostalgia, and the End of Pop Culture

CFP Imaginaires – Pop Culture Online Journal

University of Reims

In 2011, music critic Simon Reynolds’s essay Retromania came out, the main argument of which was that “We live in a pop age gone loco for retro and crazy for commemoration. […] Could it be that the greatest danger to the future of our music culture is … its past?” (Reynolds ix). Reynolds’s focus was on pop music at the turn of the new millennium, questioning the role of its producers and the tastes of its audience, stuck in a state of “hyper-stasis”. One decade after Reynolds’s thought-provoking analysis, one may wonder whether this assumption is still relevant today. Can it be extended to other objects of pop culture?
In a 2021 Guardian article, Mark Singer contended that “Covid has pushed pop culture into nostalgia. It’s time for something new”. The American journalist “worried that culture was increasingly trapped in its own past, awash with reissues and remakes. In contrast to most of the 20th century, very little in the world of music or cinema felt radically new” (<Covid has pushed pop culture into nostalgia. It’s time for something new | Mark Sinker | The Guardian> Last accessed 11/08/22). In the Post-pandemic age, is pop culture still fixated on its (and our) past? Is this “addiction” to the past a regressive trend or, on the contrary, an opportunity to reassess modern history and re-evaluate its legacy and its representation in popular mass media? In terms of forms and formats, can something “radically new” emerge from nostalgia?
Papers discussing those issues may tackle the following topics (but not exclusively):

1 – Retro-content and aesthetic
-Mediums concerned: music, cinema, TV series, videogames, tattoo art, fashion and design, advertising.
-Retro in the digital age: retro-gaming
-The definition of “retro” vs “vintage”
-Remakes, prequels, and reboots: a critical or idealised re-evaluation of our reconstructed past/close history?
-Retromania in pop culture as a way of renegotiating cultural memory / reconquering history => looking at our past with a new, contemporary lens (post-colonial, post-“me-too” approaches). New “gazes” on past events and pop culture objects. Cf. How women are treated in Mad Men. What about women’s empowerment (or lack thereof) in Call the Midwife? What is said of “the Troubles” in Northern Ireland in the 1990s-set comedy show Derry Girls?
-Heritage films and heritage TV series: could the triumphant success of Downton Abbey in the US be another sign of retrophilia? This phenomenon is nearly “squared” retrophilia as the series is more reminiscent of other “period” series or films than it is (or is intended to be?) a reconstruction of the UK of the 1910-1920s. Can the same be said of Brideshead Revisited, of the innumerable adaptations of Jane Austen’s novels? Another interesting example would be Bridgerton, perhaps, a reworking of Jane Austen “with a multicultural twist”, where the anachronism is displayed and assumed.
-Post-modern dimension of the phenomenon: recycling past images, collage creating something new out of defunct periods of history?
-Aesthetic of the past / aesthetic of past pop culture productions –> not only in “period” costumes or intradiegetic music but also in the very texture of the image (examples on Netflix: Stranger Things, Fear Street 1994 / 1978, Archive 81, etc.).
-Elements of today’s pop culture to comment on the past cf. extradiegetic modern and anachronistic music in Peaky Blinders.
-Is there such a thing as “Netflix Nostalgia”?
-Retro, vintage, and heritage in fashion.
-Nostalgia for a pre-digital age that the under-20s cannot remember => Pseudo-nostalgia: “We call it pseudo-nostalgia because younger consumers of these revived products and services have never experienced the original. Generation Z will not have been there, done that. / In fact, they are buying retrotastic products and services that sometimes have little relation to 1980s reality whatsoever.” (<> last accessed 11/08/22)
-Consumption-based nostalgia for children: books, films, and toys.
– Retro-consumption in music: revival of vinyl discs, CDs, even cassettes (and their players) Old bands reforming for special concerts/performances.
-Retro-parties or revival parties: The Jazz Age Lawn Party (New York City’s original prohibition era inspired gathering. <>); The Blitz Party in London (“London’s best-loved and most authentic 1940s party”, <>).

2- Retro and vintage culture: forms and formats
-Back to traditional forms of serialisation: weekly episodes vs binge watching – what narrative (and marketing) issues? Ex. On Netflix, Better Saul => one episode per week; more recently, Guillermo Del Toro’s Cabinet of Curiosities built up viewers “curiosity” by releasing two episodes every day.
-Viewers’ relation to time => Television grid based on a chronological, linear programming to be opposed to digital, non-linear temporality => Can binge-watching be interpreted in terms of Foucault’s heterochrony?
-Streaming platforms and social networks mimicking TV temporality – cf. Live broadcasts on Twitch.
-A new recipe with outdated ingredients: ex.: Black Mirror’s interactive episode, “Bandersnatch” (Netflix, December 2018) => Ambiguous example – using retrogaming mania in the digital age: the viewers can “play” the episode and influence the plot and the fate of the main character.
-The death of television or a renewal of the “television” format?
-Marketable nostalgia in the industry (food industry, fashion industry, etc…) ex. Nostalgia for US Southern history in Dixie Land, the case of “ante-bellum restaurants” serving “plantation food”: Aunt Pittypat’s Porch, Mary Mac’s TeaRoom, and Empire State South (cf. talk given by Lily Kelting at a London conference dedicated to “Pop Culture Nostalgia” in 2016, entitled: “From fried chicken to kimchi grits: restaurants and the nostalgia industry in the U.S. South”).
-“Retromarketing”: defined as “relaunch or revival of a product or service from a historical period, which marketers usually update to ultramodern standards of functioning, performance or taste.” (<> last accessed 11/08/22)
Please send a 250/300-word abstract with a short resume by December 27th 2022 to the following Email address:
Articles will preferably be in English, occasionally in French.
Notification of acceptance by January 10th ‘23
Full papers due by April 15th ‘23
Style sheet available here: Submissions | Imaginaires (
Double-blind peer reviewing process until May 31st ‘23
Revised papers due by August 1st ‘23
Online Publication fall/winter 23

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Source: Yannick Bellenger-Morvan