Britishness, Popular Music, and National Identity
The Making of Modern Britain
By Irene Morra
To Be Published September 30th 2013 by Routledge
This book offers a major exploration of the social and cultural importance of popular music to contemporary celebrations of Britishness. Rather than a history of popular music, or an attempt to identify indigenous qualities in a popular music tradition, it exposes and interrogates the influential cultural and nationalist rhetoric around popular music — and the dissemination of that rhetoric in various forms. Since the 1960s, popular music has surpassed literature to become the dominant signifier of modern cultural British identity, a position enforced in popular culture, literature, news and music media, political rhetoric, and in popular music itself, which has become increasingly self-conscious about the expectation that music both articulate and manifest the inherent values and identity of the modern nation. This study examines the implications of such practices and the various social and cultural values they construct and enforce, identifying two dominant, conflicting constructions around popular music: music as the voice of an indigenous English ‘folk’, and music as the voice of a re-emergent British Empire. These constructions are not only contradictory but also exclusive, proscribing a social and musical identity for the nation that ignores its greater creative, national, and cultural diversity. This book is the first to offer a comprehensive interrogation of an extremely powerful discourse in England that today informs dominant formulations of English and British national identity, history, and culture.
Preface Introduction 1. Opening Ceremony I: The National Tradition 2. The National Voice 3. Canon, Heriatage, and Tradition 4. Retrenchment and Rebellion II: The Communal Voice 5. The English People: Fractures and Fraternity 6. Women and Song 7. Race and Indigeneity III: Empire and Nation 8. An Elizabethan Age 9. Yesterday Came Suddenly 10. The Empire Slips Back Conclusion
Irene Morra is Senior Lecturer in the Department of English and Centre for Critical and Cultural Theory, Cardiff University, UK.