'New Pop' and the Problem of Unravelling Cultural Histories

Shepherd, Sara L. (2009). 'New Pop' and the Problem of Unravelling Cultural Histories. MRes thesis The Open University.

Abstract

The aim of this dissertation was to examine changing discursive representations of ‘New Pop’, a British popular music phenomenon of the 1980s, and in doing so it explored the methodological issues related to the construction and interpretation of cultural histories. The study drew on literature which highlighted several issues as key in the representation of cultural phenomena; namely, the act of narrativisation (White 1987; Zerubavel 2003), the use of interpretative repertoires (Edley 2008), and the influence of collective memory (Halbwachs 1995). In order to evaluate the proposed shift in discursive constructions of ‘New Pop’, a comparative approach was adopted, with a selection of media accounts gathered both from the time of the phenomenon in question and from the subsequent period. In applying Critical Discourse Analysis to this material (Fairclough 1995), the study was able not only to identify the discursive strategies at work in representations of ‘New Pop’, but also to investigate the politics of the disparity which was found between contemporary and retrospective accounts. Emerging from the analysis were a number of findings concerning the role of discursive power in the privileging of particular accounts of ‘New Pop’, the problematic status of truth-claims in the representation of cultural phenomena, and the epistemological implications of the tendency to retrospectively codify cultural history.

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