The literary act is almost inescapably nostalgic. That most cliché of opening lines—‘Once upon a time…’—signals the plaintive longing for time past that is emblematic of nostalgia. In The Future of Nostalgia, Svetlana Boym states that: ‘Nostalgia (from nostos—return home, and algia—longing) is a longing for a home that no longer exists or has never existed.’ To look back nostalgically is not to recall the past as it really was, but to elide, distort, and occlude its realities in the light of what has happened since. Indeed, contemporary western culture appears at present to be caught in a nostalgic stasis. Two of the most successful political slogans in recent years have focused on the notion of restoring a prior state of being: taking back control, making America great again. Nostalgia might therefore appear to go hand-in-hand with a kind of latent imperialism, but it is important to bear in mind that nostalgia has been harnessed just as much to fight against imperialism as it has been to reimpose it. The articles in Volume 12 of Moveable Type each, in their own way, grapple with the complexities of nostalgia in literature, showing it to be both a progressive and a regressive force.
Choose an individual section below, or download the whole issue in PDF format.
Sam Caleb and Niall Ó Cuileagáin - 'Forget, remember!': Literature and Nostalgia
Fraser McIlwraith on Harriet Phillips, Nostalgia in Print and Performance, 1510-1613: Merry Worlds (2019)
Max Fletcher on Ben Lerner, The Topeka School (2019)