Was It Yesterday?

Nostalgia in Contemporary Film and Television

Edited by Matthew Leggatt

Subjects: Film Studies, Popular Culture
Series: SUNY series, Horizons of Cinema
Hardcover : 9781438483498, 294 pages, June 2021
Paperback : 9781438483481, 294 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents


Introduction: History in Reverse
Matthew Leggatt

Part I: What Is Nostalgia?

1. Clearing Up the Haze: Toward a Definition of the "Nostalgia Film" Genre
Jason Sperb

2. Midcentury Metamodern: Returning Home in the Twenty-First-Century Nostalgia Film
Christine Sprengler

3. Touched by Time: Memories of the Faded Star
Daniel Varndell

4. Mimetic Tangible Nostalgia and Spatial Cosplay: Replica Merchandise and Place in Fandom's Material Cultures
Ross P. Garner

Part II: When Is Nostalgia?

5. A Nostalgic Exception: Warren Beatty's Star Performance in Rules Don't Apply
Steven Rybin

6. The Past as a Temporal Free-Zone: The Nostalgic 1970s in Contemporary Crime Film and Television
Fran Mason

7. On the Limits of Nostalgia: Understanding the Marketplace for Remaking and Rebooting the Hollywood Musical
Justin Wyatt

8. "I'm Going to My Friends . . . I'm Going Home": Contingent Nostalgia in Netflix's Stranger Things
Tracey Mollet

Part III: The Politics of the Past

9. A Confrontation with History: Re-Viewing the Horror Film Sources of Get Out
Vera Dika

10. "Why Can't We Go Backwards, for Once?" Nostalgia, Utopia, and Science Fiction in Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One
Matthew Leggatt

11. Replaying Cowboys and Indians: Controlled and Commercial Nostalgia in Westworld
Christina Wilkins

12. Contradictory Reminiscences: Post-9/11 Cold War Nostalgia, The Americans, and Deutschland 83/86
Ian Peters

Part IV: Not My Nostalgia

13. Remembering It Well: Nostalgia, Cinema, Fracture
Murray Pomerance

14. Nostalgia Ain't What It Used to Be
William Rothman


Explores how nostalgia operates in contemporary US film and television.


Bringing together prominent transatlantic film and media scholars, Was It Yesterday? explores the impact of nostalgia in twenty-first century American film and television. Cultural nostalgia, in both real and imagined forms, is dominant today, but what does the concentration on bringing back the past mean for an understanding of our cultural moment, and what are the consequences for viewers? This book questions the nature of this nostalgic phenomenon, the politics associated with it, and the significance of the different periods, in addition to offering counterarguments that see nostalgia as prevalent throughout film and television history. Considering such films and television shows as La La Land, Westworld, Stranger Things, and American Hustle, the contributors demonstrate how audiences have spent more time over the last decade living in various pasts.

Matthew Leggatt is Senior Lecturer in English and American Literature at the University of Winchester, United Kingdom and the author of Cultural and Political Nostalgia in the Age of Terror: The Melancholic Sublime.


"…a valuable contribution to media studies…" — CHOICE

"All 14 of these diverse and often brilliant essays are revelatory because they accept how much is at stake." — Arts Fuse