Friday, 30 October 2009

Carry On Researching

Matt Kerry who teaches media and cultural studies at NTU has also recently passed his PhD. As he explains below, his doctoral research explores the representations of holidays and their relationship to ideas of nation in British cinema.

The representation of the supposed free space of the holiday by a medium of mass entertainment offers a highly condensed image that demands analysis. In my thesis I question the ways in which the holiday film constructs a sense of Britishness based around the idea of community that is shaped and pressured by forces at different historical moments. Modern capitalist society offers us a structure where the holiday is presented to us as the ultimate contrast from work. It is commodified, and we choose to enter into this ideology, take our break, and return to work, refreshed. The holiday also offers a particular type of freedom, which distinguishes it from other forms of leisure. It can be considered as more of an ‘event’ than a weekend break from work, for instance.

The emergence of the holiday as a form of mass entertainment for the working class appears to coincide with the birth of cinema in the same respect. By studying the holiday film I reveal what it tells us about British culture, the nation and British life, and how cinema audiences may have engaged with and responded to these texts.

As well as providing textual analysis of the films, I also address the holiday as a liminal, carnivalesque space (Inglis 2000, Shields 2002), and also consider how the landscape is mediated through the tourist gaze (Urry 2002, Bell and Lyall 2002). I explore the ways in which the cinematic representation of the holiday shifts in relation to changing social contexts – in new formations of leisure, class and landscape. I also consider how audiences might actively respond to these films, and how these texts might construct an ideal working-class community pre- and post- World War II. Overall, I argue that representations of the traditional British holiday in these films are mostly white, working-class and raucous, but that these representations are not fixed.

Image from Carry On Cruising (1962)

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