The pursuit of authenticity is a contemporary obsession. From hipster fixations on artisan coffee and vintage clothing through to the electoral success of supposedly unspun populist politicians like Donald Trump, a yearning for the real pervades our culture. Yet while highly prized and desired, authenticity is also profoundly elusive and contested. This volume stages a wide-ranging interdisciplinary interrogation of the concept, with case studies ranging from collective memory of the Second World War, through the historical fiction of Sarah Waters to the confessional art of Tracey Emin. With contributors drawn from memory studies, cultural history, English literature, theatre studies, and art criticism, it explores how authenticity is in play in diverse practices of reading, remembering, and performing. The chapters demonstrate that authenticity has no single stable definition, but is rather invoked in very diverse ways – both descriptively and prescriptively – in many diverse contexts. They also make clear that it is not an inherent quality but the product of orchestration, performance, and inter-subjective negotiation.
This book was originally published as a special issue of Rethinking History.
Introduction Patrick Finney
1. Mediated immediacy: constructing authentic testimony in audio-visual media Sara Jones
2. Politics and technologies of authenticity: the Second World War at the close of living memory Patrick Finney
3. Doing pasts: authenticity from the reenactors’ perspective Anne Brædder, Kim Esmark, Tove Kruse, Carsten Tage Nielsen and Anette Warring
4. ‘Part of the project of that book was not to be authentic’: neo-historical authenticity and its anachronisms in contemporary historical fiction Katharine Harris
5. ‘I am two distinct beings’: Paul de Man’s authenticating project Gregory Jones-Katz
6. The guilt of the past: medievalist closures and disclosures Stuart McWilliams
7. Negotiating accuracy and authenticity in an Aboriginal King Lear David Dean
8. Dead history, live art: encountering the past with Stuart Brisley Sanja Perovic
9. Telling stories: performing authenticity in the confessional art of Tracey Emin Laura Lake Smith