Cultural identities and the aesthetics of Britishness

Editor: Dana Arnold

The need for a single public culture - the creation of an authentic identity - is fundamental to our understanding of nationalism and nationhood. This book considers how manufactured cultural identities are expressed. It explores how notions of Britishness were constructed and promoted through architecture, landscape, painting, sculpture and literature, and the ways in which the aesthetics of national identities promoted the idea of nation. The idea encompassed the doctrine of popular freedom and liberty from external constraint. Particular attention is paid to the political and social contexts of national identities within the British Isles; the export, adoption and creation of new identities; and the role of gender in the forging of those identities. The book examines the politics of land-ownership as played out within the arena of the oppositional forces of the Irish Catholics and the Anglo-Irish Protestant ascendancy. It reviews the construction of a modern British imperial identity as seen in the 1903 durbar exhibition of Indian art. The area where national projection was particularly directed was in the architecture and the displays of the national pavilions designed for international exhibitions. Discussions include the impact of Robert Bowyer's project on the evolution of history painting through his re-representation of English history; the country houses with architectural styles ranging from Gothic to Greek Revivalist; and the place of Arthurian myth in British culture. The book is an important addition to the field of postcolonial studies as it looks at how British identity creation affected those living in England.

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