Britannia Rules No More: Britpop, Britart, Britlit and Britflix Have All Failed to Generate Enduring Cultural Myths. We Should Be Celebrating Plurality Not Homogeneity

By Hewison, Robert | New Statesman (1996), October 6, 2003 | Go to article overview

Britannia Rules No More: Britpop, Britart, Britlit and Britflix Have All Failed to Generate Enduring Cultural Myths. We Should Be Celebrating Plurality Not Homogeneity


Hewison, Robert, New Statesman (1996)


When the Ancient Greeks wanted to describe the distinctive characteristic of the inhabitants of this island, they chose the word for the local habit of body painting--Pretanoi. The Romans turned this into the Latin, Britanni--and so one word for our national identity derives from a bizarre cultural act, still practiced by football fans today.

The attempt to define Britishness by Sir Bernard Crick's Life in the United Kingdom Advisory Group, which has suggested a cultural test, is only one of a series of projects designed to interrogate an increasingly slippery term. Earlier last month, Tate Britain, established less than three years ago, launched British Art Week, a nationwide series of events, exhibitions and lectures exploring the relationship between national identity and British culture. The first panel discussion asked: does "Tate Britishness" actually exist? In his lecture on "the Britishness of British art", critic Andrew Graham-Dixon noted that "British" art has not previously been considered worthy of such attention. (Suddenly sensitive to labels, I noticed that these events were sponsored by BP, a multinational corporation that has abbreviated its Britishness to a postcode.)

The historian Krishan Kumar (to whose recently published The Making of English National Identity I owe the story of the Pretanoi) writes that issues of national identity are being debated as never before. In particular, there is a crisis of Englishness: Tom Nairn's The Break-Up of Britain (1977), Linda Colley's Britons (1992) and Norman Davies's The Isles: a history (1999) made significant contributions to this inquiry. And Richard Weight's Patriots: national identity in Britain 1940-2000 was published last year.

These books reflect the current anxiety and confusion over national identity. Curiously, this uncertainty was present at what is normally regarded as the most nationalistic cultural event of the year, the Last Night of the Proms. This was not only because the master of ceremonies was an American, conductor Leonard Slatkin who wore a Union Jack bow tie. More significantly, the BBC mounted parallel concerts in Belfast, Cardiff and Glasgow. In the interval, television viewers watched flag waving crowds enjoy their separate nationalistic epiphanies: Celtic keening from the Chieftains, a welcome from the hillside from Robert Tear, and a choir celebrating the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.

Ritual performances of Elgar, Wood and Parry followed, but as the London prommers got increasingly out of control, ethnic folk melodies from around the British Isles were seamlessly included in the programme. Slatkin described this as "uniting the four nations of the United Kingdom", an expression that may not have gone down well with everybody in the crowd outside City Hall, Belfast. Yet the BBC seemed to protest too much. The "Rule Britannia"(which has words by a Scotsman) that followed was curiously muted, and the contradictions in the national psyche were further exposed as the socialist "Jerusalem" was followed by the royalist national anthem, before the evening was rounded off by "Auld Lang Syne".

The rise of local nationalisms and the weakening attachment to Britishness measured by opinion polls is not a problem for the Scots, the Welsh, or even the Northern Irish, who can define them selves against "the other" of the economically, numerically and politically dominant English. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Britannia Rules No More: Britpop, Britart, Britlit and Britflix Have All Failed to Generate Enduring Cultural Myths. We Should Be Celebrating Plurality Not Homogeneity
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.