The Persuasive Power of Nostalgia: An Emerging Genre

deadline for submissions: 
November 10, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Ryerson University
contact email: 

Many scholars have examined the ways in which nostalgia has functioned and evolved throughout history from its clinical classification as a syndrome/disease to its romantic re-classification as the pursuit of a golden age. More recent literature has attempted to identify the different subcategories of nostalgia that have emerged within modernity and the extent to which it functions as both a spatial and temporal phenomenon.

While all of these studies offer important insights into the ways in which nostalgia has evolved, there is still the question of how we have evolved with nostalgia and how this co-evolution has expanded its dimensions. One of the most interesting dimensions of nostalgia that has emerged in modernity is its suasory force that inspires in its audience/subject a longing for a time, place or events that they themselves have never lived. In this context, we can view nostalgia as occupying a space within the simulacrum: a copy without its original. This leads to the emerging issue of how we are not only consumed by nostalgia, but how nostalgia is becoming something that which we consume irrespective of points of reference. Particularly interesting is the way in which nostalgia has permeated modern and popular culture in an era where technological innovation is progressing at an unprecedented accelerated pace.

In order to better understand the persuasive power of and the relationship between nostalgia and the modern self, this paper will investigate how nostalgia acts as a genre rather than an ethereal, fluid concept. I will be examining the works of Carolyn Miller and Richard Doyle to understand how we can read nostalgia as a “text”. As nostalgia functions as a mechanism by which people make meaning from fragmented and fluctuating identities, it has the ability to offer a kind of transcendence through its transportive and transformative dimensions. I argue that nostalgia offers a subject position that shapes identity by blurring spatial and temporal boundaries of the self in relation to past events. This discussion is important because it marks yet another evolutionary phase in the ways in which we can think about nostalgia in relation to the modern self.