Saturday, 14 June 2008

Cardiff ATRiuM: Famous Performance Artist Mike Pearson in the Zen Room, Friday 20th June 2008 at 6.30pm

The George Ewart Evans Centre and

Cardiff Storytelling Circle

jointly host


Friday 20th June 2008 at 6.30pm

A presentation on aspects of


The latest research project/artwork by

Prof. Mike Pearson.


Zen Room, The ATriuM,

Cardiff School of Creative and Cultural Industries,

Adam St.


Reflections on and illustrations of the creation of three web-based audio works, combining the spoken word, music and effects. These original sound compositions by Pearson, composers John Hardy and Hugh Fowler are inspired by, evoke & guide

walks within the agricultural landscapes of the valley of the River Ancholme in north Lincolnshire, the environment in which Pearson grew up.

Mike Pearson has been, and remains, one of the most significant and influential performance practitioners in Wales over the past thirty years.

As a founding member of Cardiff Laboratory Theatre, Brith Gof and Pearson/Brookes, a performer, performance-maker, theorist and academic he has worked worldwide. He has a long history of making solo narrative performances.

Currently Professor of Performance Studies at the University of Aberystwyth, in 2002 he was Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the Centre for the Critical Analysis of Contemporary Culture at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, USA.

His publications include In Comes I: Performance, Memory and Landscape (2006).

For more information please contact: Ailsa Richardson

Research Assistant
Canolfan Adrodd Storïau George Ewart Evans

George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling
tel +44 (0)1443 668631
e mail

Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries, ATRiuM, University of Glamorgan, Adam Street, Cardiff, CF24 2XF

Ysgol Diwydiannau Creadigol a Diwylliannol Caerdydd, ATRiuM, Prifysgol Morgannwg, Stryd Adam, Caerdydd, CF24 2XF

AIM: ATRiuM Intelligent Media

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff

Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries


Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Welsh-American Family Genealogy, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Welsh Music, Film, and Books Symposium, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Celtic Cult Cinema on the World Wide Web.

Visit the UK Film Studies and World Cinema and Music Import Showcase

© 2008 Dr. Mark Leslie Woods

Smart & Sexy? Your Queer Advantage is waiting!

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Queer Advantage, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Mordechai Razing Ziggurats, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Mordechai's Post-Evangelical-Granola on the World Wide Web.

© 2008 Dr. Mark Leslie Woods

Meandering Through the Welsh Traditions of Eisteddfodau in a Transnational Tableau

[Pictured above: Charlotte 'Lottie Lute' Williams (R) with husband Chauncey Lute (Center) and daughter Grace Lute Poorman (L), members of the Welsh Congregational Church of Youngstown, Ohio.]

As I prepare my summer field research plans, I’m reflecting upon the trajectory of my personal experience: For example, I dedicated my doctoral dissertation entitled,


to my maternal great-grandmother, Mrs. Charlotte ‘Lottie Lute’ Williams, whose fiercely nationalistic love of Wales and Welsh culture, music, religions and language was planted in my heart as a child in Ohio, when she incessantly proclaimed to me that,

‘If you keep practicing your lines, Markie, one day you’ll win the Eisteddfod!’

By this my Grandma Lottie undoubtedly was referring to the local Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and National Gymanfa Ganu events, co-sponsored by the affiliated Welsh Congregational Chapels in America, which have since morphed into the modern

North American Festival of Wales

held annually in different locations across the continent from Canada to Florida to Chicago, from California to Cincinnati to Vermont.

Along the way and almost 45 years later I find myself participating in a festively-costumed Italian Medieval Pageant and Jousting Match held each year in my partner’s Southern Italian comune in the Molisano città called Guglionesi, in an event called

Il Palio di San Nicola di Guglionesi

Palio di San Nicola

[Pictured above: Dr. Mark Leslie Woods being interviewed on Italian TV after performing as an actor in the Medieval Re-enactment of the Palio di San Nicola, Guglionesi, Molise, Italy in 2007, Still photo is video capture courtesy of TeleMolise]

When I think about the cultural and social meaning and performative significance of these contrasting events, the similarities are enormous.

I established a thorough historical overview of the Eisteddfod tradition by committing to memory the book section by Prys Morgan From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period (Morgan 1983).

After this I contextualized the meaning of the Eisteddfod within the context of cultural studies, media studies and cultural policy studies by referencing the delightful article by Charlotte Aull Davies entitled ‘A oes heddwch?’ Contesting meaning and identities in the Welsh National Eisteddfod (Davies 1998).

Welsh National Eisteddfod

[Pictured above: Glamorgan, Mountain Ash, Princess Elizabeth - the present Queen - being made a member of the Gorsedd of Bards at the National Eisteddfod in 1946]

Davies’s article is interesting because she considers the effect of televising and broadcasting the National Eisteddfod of Wales, and how this might be informing and effecting both the participants and the audience reception (while also broadening and altering the demographic reach of the event).

Davies caught my attention again when she referenced Handelman who compared the Eisteddfod to the Palio of Siena in Tuscany

"In a similar analysis of the Palio Festival of central Italy, Handelman (1990) describes such structure as a ‘model that transforms the comune by taking it apart and putting it back together — thereby yearly regenerating the comune as a holistic urban entity’" (Handelman 1990; Davies 1998: 157).

Davies continues her comparison of Palio and Eisteddfod

This view of spectacle, as a structure, as a vehicle or model, which provides occasion and symbolism for performances that do not create a single collective identity but instead promote ‘communitas’ through the act of performing different identities within its context, accords well with the nature of the Welsh National Eisteddfod (Davies 1998: 157-158).

Davies is referring to the concept of ‘communitas’ as introduced by cultural anthropologist Victor Witter Turner in the watershed volume The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure (Turner 1969).

Here’s the Wiki definition:

"Communitas is a Latin noun referring either to an unstructured community in which people are equal, or to the very spirit of community. It also has special significance as a loanword in cultural anthropology and the social sciences.

"Communitas is an acute point of community. It takes community to the next level and allows the whole of the community to share a common experience, usually through a rite of passage.

"This brings everyone onto an equal level, even if you are higher in position, you have been lower and you know what that is."

As usually happens, my family and casual interests seem to lead me into new research trajectories, and so I started to fashion a one-year research plan for myself. This plan is not set in stone, but it gives folks an idea of where I’m going.

It’s also not the only postdoctoral research interest that I’m currently pursuing, but it fits nicely into my job search / summer travel plans and related academic conferences and film industry festivals and markets schedule for the next six months.

I am also interested in the identity politics of ‘recycled’ cultural and religious or ceremonial artifacts, especially the usage of heroic figures and their related myths, legends and folklore, i.e., saints, warriors, celebrities, rulers, poets, heretics, rebels, movie and TV stars, and other iconic figures.

This has led me to observe the Cult of Padre Pio and the Cult of San Nicola and to understand how they operate as regional emblems of cultural, linguistic and political opposition, distinction and resistance.

Padre Pio Official Website

Basilica di San Nicola di Bari

[Pictured above: The church of Saint Nicholas of Bari in Guglionesi, crypt before the 8th century, church circa 11th century]

If you have the patience to browse through the plan you’ll see that I am becoming more interested in how communities re-collect themselves and how this might be changing in an age of technology and globalization.

Hence you might pigeonhole my post doc trends into ‘mnemonic practices of social communities in trans-national contexts, especially those informed or assisted by cultural artifact which migrates and is transformed between mediums, i.e., ‘the intermedial’.

Two comparable but distinctly different European regional ethnicities will form the primary focus of this study:

1) The Welsh people, with their ancient Brythonic-derived and Latin/Anglo-influenced language

— its wealth of literary tradition and surviving texts, their 2,500 year old bardic/literary traditions, their enigmatic and obstinately independent tiny ‘Atlantic coastal mountains and promontories’ homeland as some have termed it, albeit historically-debatably ‘the first colony of Imperial England’,

their Celtic church heritage with its enduring aberrations from Roman ‘orthodoxy’, their quasi-pagan, Nonconformist Chapel-driven Eisteddfodau culture and brand of nationalism, and

their cultural heirs in the quirky colonies of ‘Gymanfa Ganu’ (hymn festival) Ohio/Pennsylvania, Mormon ‘Tabernacle Choir’ Utah, and Patagonian ‘Romantic Poet-Gaucho Cowboys’ of Argentina, all currently ‘connected’ online via the miracle of broadband and a Windows/Linus/Mac GUI-interface.

2) The Sanniti people of Southern Italy, or la gente del Sannio with their mutually-intelligible dialects of non-standard Italian derived from the ancient language of Oscan

— its wealth of literary tradition and surviving texts, their 2,500 year history including as ‘the first colony of Imperial Rome’, their enormous and complicated religious and cultural heritage,

under Latinate Rome and the Greco-Byzantine Empire, under threat of Saracen invasions, under the Holy Roman Empire, under the Vatican, under the Normans, under the Kingdom of Naples and il Regno delle Due Sicilie, under the Bourbons, Angevines, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mussolini and others,

with its complex mix of the three ‘Graces’ of paganism, the authoritarianism of orthodox Roman Catholicism, and the persistence of recurring ‘Cult of the Saints’ revivals and Marianism, with their territorial homeland whose borders (after the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies) were virtually unchanged for 700 years, their support for the culturally-opposing Hellenic influence of the Cult of San Nicola di Bari (Santa Claus/Father Christmas/Ole Saint Nick), for the Carmelites, and

most recently for ‘the second-most popular pilgrimage site’ and ‘Cult of the Saint’ in modern Christendom, the tomb of San Pio — the Capuchin monk Padre Pio, whose ‘female grotesque’ corpse was recently exhumed for veneration, whose ministry was oppressed by the Pope since 1922, later tolerated, and currently venerated, whose voice, miracles and stigmata were arguably the first of any saint (acknowledging Mother Teresa as a close second) to be broadcast ‘live’ through television and now via the Internet to millions of followers.

The Sannio have large diaspora colonies most notably the economically and politically influential ‘Molisani’ with their pageants, parades and festivals in Montreal, and across the Americas from San Paolo, Brazil to Vancouver, British Columbia, all currently ‘connected’ online via the miracle of broadband and a Windows/Linus/Mac GUI-interface.


Among digital avenues of contemporary and future media there lie significant yet barely explored and intersecting ‘alleyways’ of interdisciplinary possibilities, across the mutually-informing and cross-fertilizing fields of cultural identity issues and into the dynamic frameworks of transnational ‘memory community’ formations.

The enormous, exponential preponderance of recorded, transmitted, broadcasted, exhibited, archived and now, ‘published to the Internet’ audiovisual and digitalized texts, images, memes, symbols and other represented commemorations of shared identity create organic or orchestrated and recalled ‘symphonies’ of sometimes explicit but often coded intermedial cultural ‘realities’ for members of contemporary communities.

The mass media of film and video, the Internet, and other digital technologies have conventions and devices which are particular to their real and virtual fields of production and consumption, and particular to their mixed ages, classes and levels of audience sophistication and reception.

These conventions and devices, including for example, time-compression, abbreviation (logos, signs, trademarks, slogans), exaggeration (full-text downloads, high resolution scans, hyper-textual embedded reference links) and interactivity (implications of ‘Web 2.0’) impact upon the content, transmission and reception of the older established texts.

In this way it might be said that the ‘prospective memory’ meme intended by earlier generations is perhaps sampled, synchronized or bricolaged to the point where the origin and meaning become coded and obscured.

Therefore the representation of these communities’ identities in this increasingly unpredictable and untameable environment of inter-textual and inter-discursive adaptations, of reinventions and of recycled artefacts of cultural ‘capital’ can seem a confusing cacophony to both internal and external audiences, and yet some communities seem undaunted by the challenge of negotiating a mediated identity — indeed, they seem to thrive.

One reason these groups prosper in spite of historical and political obstacles could be that often their coded intermedial cultural ‘realities’ are derivative of complex and lengthy bodies of intuitively-organized ‘treasures’ of their shared past.

Beyond the perceived clamour of modern technological transmissions there exist traditional or newly invented platforms of interactive transnational communities of collective memory, whose modern mnemonic practices appear novel, but upon closer scrutiny reveals established organizing concepts of aesthetic, social and economic practice.

These organizing concepts and principles are not new, but build upon those of older rhetorical and social organization frameworks, displaying familiar multimodal dialogues between diverse literary, aesthetic, media, textual and historical analytical traditions.

These renewed and emerging platforms (for traditional and reconstructed collective memory groups) might be understood within their integrated networks as real and/or virtual, but also as importantly ‘mediated’ lieux de mémoire.

The presence and received co-presence of these real and imagined rituals, events, ‘landmarks’ and other places of mnemonic practice constitute strategically framed organizations of intentional ‘prospective memory’ sites.

Accordingly, like other studied social and biological systems, these so-called ‘digital age’ communities possess communicative infrastructures supported by both generic and distinctive narratives and meta-narratives.

These narratives and meta-narratives construct and reinforce shared group values and qualities, perceived external threats (while defining boundaries with various ‘others’), useful pasts, preferred national and group ‘delusions’ and other defining conventions that in turn further stabilize the convened ‘meaning-making’ of these groups.

The goal of this project is to map and analyze over the course of one year, a critical ‘landscape’ of the nature, history and possible futures of transnational ‘collective memory communities’ formation, with a particular emphasis upon the importance of the intermedial.

This will include a comparative analysis of two specific case studies of ‘cyber-ethnies’ with other critical examinations of similar groups. Decoding the mediated texts of these transnational communities can be efficaciously approached by engaging in a historically informed, comparative analysis of rhetorical content and carried meaning of the two groups.

These groups were selected because they have derived their modern identities from frequently ‘recycled’ and mediated Medieval texts, while transcending modern political challenges to their collective identity and existence with the assistance of new interartial / metapoetical and interactive actions and technologies.

Aim and Scope

Throughout human history the participants in the ‘storytelling’ process engage in articulated social activities that create the narratives and meta-narratives which construct a real ‘sense of belonging’, whether the community is local, national or transnational/international.

Indeed, the constellated and interdependent centralized discourses at a transnational level can often be reliant upon and traced to increments of social organizations analogous with neighbourhoods, villages, ghettos or ethnological enclaves.

But what matters (in our discovery and understanding of the operating principles of collective memory frameworks) is not only the reflected articulation of community ‘storytelling’ but also that the constantly changing media also informs, alters and adds to the meaning.

In fact this sense of ‘value-added’ meaning is essential to ‘tweaking’ the group’s identity and self-esteem beyond a mere collective upwards, to a level of enhanced and enduring ‘communitas’.

The first group which has achieved a degree of electronically-supported ‘communitas’ that I will consider will be the 7.5 million speakers of the Neapolitan Language Group dialects in ‘Italia meridonale’ with their historic Italic ‘Oscan/Latin heritage and cultural relationship to the ancient peoples of Sannio:

Even as the much-publicized Forza Italia and the Northern League have discarded federalismo-based identities and sought secessionist solutions in response to globalization, a quieter Southern Italian ‘memory community’ centred around the life, language and geographical-specificity of the Capuchin Friars and the Cult of Padre Pio has fuelled a transnational religious and cultural movement and worldwide community of faith.

What is not widely understood is the extent to which this religious movement is driven by regional ‘nationalistic’ motivations of ‘la gente del Sannio’, in reaction to centuries of colonial ‘othering’ by outsiders and by papal or national oppressors of the regional, ‘non-standard Italian’ dialects/language group, i.e., ‘a language without prestige’.

I propose to briefly survey the body of audiovisual materials, recorded and documented histories, fictions and represented religious articles-of-devotion, investigating their iconography and symbolism along with integrated patterns of religious and rural heritage tourism, pilgrimage and online rituals.

This survey will assist the analysis of whether these mediated audiovisual and digital materials and events constitute a theological or political ‘Third cinema’ or ‘cinema of opposition’ (almost invariably based upon recent popular ‘legends’ or adapted biographies).

I intend to offer examples and a rationale as to how and why the religious movement spearheaded by the adulation of San Pio serves to first construct a regional identity and then to create (and finance) a transnational identity (along with a multi-million Euro religious tourism and Pugliese real estate boom).

It is important to note that this television-video-internet-and-souvenir-driven movement imagines an envisioned ‘there-ness’ with a moral centre in the coastal mountain desert of San Giovanni Rotondo near Foggia, not in Rome and whose annually re-enacted Nativity crèches ‘presepe vivente’ recall more a mystical birthplace in Benevento ‘the city of witches’ and less so in Bethlehem.

It is, after all, the Good Witch Befanna (a convenient linguistic play on Epiphany) who brings gifts to the children of Sannio, not the Magi, on the feast of the Three Kings.

Secondly I will compare ‘la gente del Sannio’ and their community’s correspondence to the transnational Cult of Padre Pio with the eisteddfodau of Wales, and the ways in which a mediated National Eisteddfod of Wales and other filmed, documented, or televised eisteddfodau are contributing to a changing national identity for Wales.

The Welsh Eisteddfod is a ritualized annual performance event which dates from at least the twelfth century, and which was reinvented by Neo-Druidic / Animist Unitarians, Quakers and Protestant Nonconformist Chapel / Anglican clerics in the eighteenth century to save the Welsh language from obliteration by English.

Hundreds of local eisteddfodau are held throughout the year in Wales in ancient parish ‘cantref’ (meaning ‘town of 100 people’ — a geographical formulation approximating Dunbar’s number, or the reckoned ‘tipping point’ of Neo-tribalists, and comparing to the collective ‘il mio paese’ with their Italian parishes within the cittadina or il villaggio).

The Welsh eisteddfodau crown a poet, musician and an actor as the newly exalted ‘heroes’ of each competition, contrasting with the ‘Cult of the Saints’ which, as in the case of San Pio, celebrates one extraordinary individual, rather than an ever rotating company of ordinary but very talented ‘gwerin’ or folk.

This might be historically residual of a distinctively Celtic ideal of de-emphasizing the protagonist in narratives, while emphasizing the successes and values of the group, as seen in the Arthurian cycles within The Four Branches of the Mabonogi. Comparisons of the re-crowning of a new heroic personality have analogues,

e.g., in the current Cult of San Pio’s eclipse in popularity of all other patron saints throughout Italy, as Padre Pio has taken an ever more prominent role in events formally dedicated to, for example, San Nicola di Bari, previously perceived to be the indigenous marker of the regional versus the communal patrono.

There are also ancient and modern associations between the nationalistic, quasi-pagan/implicitly Protestant Christian Welsh eisteddfodau and public sports which was discouraged and forbidden but eventually re-emerged as an officially-endorsed national ritual in the form of rugby and to a lesser extent, football:

A simultaneous displacement in the late 1600s of Catholicism, dance, the parish-sponsored sport of cnapan (comparable to Irish ‘caid’ football) and the popularity of the Welsh bardic vocation with the introduction of Protestant Nonconformist, three hundred year long ‘Welsh Chapel’ period.

These days ‘Good Welshmen’ attendees to the Six Nations ‘RugbyNation’ are permitted to drink Red Dragon ‘Brains’ brand beer and to frequent matches on Sundays, formally a forbidden activity on the Welsh chapel ‘Sabbath’, but only as long as the daffodil-wearing Welsh sing evangelical Wesleyan and Calvinistic hymns to cheer their team on.

Comparisons can be made to the local Italian communes’ re-enactment of ‘Palio’, secular events with pagan overtones, carefully positioned between church feasts as the Molisano cittadina of Guglionesi holds the Palio di San Nicola between the procession of Madonna del Carmine and the procession of San Nicola di Bari.

It is significant to note that with the palio and the two Marianite processions — all three involve parades that stop in front of the new statue of San Pio, strategically positioned in the centre of the castellara, the traditional seat of power (after the nearby cathedral of Larino) in this ancient urban crossroads of the Biferno Valley’s Oscan Frentani tribes.

Research Issues and Key Points to Explore

Perspectives attained from available research inform us of how older communities ‘reinvent’ themselves through the representation or performance of symbolic moments, rituals and ceremonies recalling histories or invented histories.

So-called ‘Small Nations’, ‘Regional and Minority Language Groups (RMLs)’, ‘Religious ethnies’ and religious or sectarian minorities, ‘Alternative ‘Nations’ and ‘Virtual Worlds’ seem to underscore the continuing importance of Coser’s Social Conflict Theory, disposing them to form transnational compositions for reasons of convenience and survival.

Frequently these established and re-constituting communities exist in some post-colonial condition or as scattered Diasporas seeking to re-connect with the imagined ‘homeland’.

A substantial body of scholarship exists examining both the Sannio people’s culture/the Cult of Padre Pio and the Welsh eisteddfodau, as expressed in literature, visual art, music, film and video.

This study is introduces a new exploration of how these traditional communities are employing media, and how their interaction with this media is shaping or changing their communities. Issues salient to our study of mediated Welsh and Sannio texts include:

1) Key Point: Both the Welsh (understood to be Welsh-descended, Cymraeg-speakers, non-Cymraeg speakers, Wenglish/non-Wenglish-speakers) and the Sannio people (understood to be bilingual speakers of the Neapolitan Language Group/standard Italian) have had historical periods of ascendancy when their cultures and economies were celebrated and blossomed under a self-confident political and national identity.

2) Key Point: Both of these communities have had self-conscious periods of non-state status coupled with a persistent linguistic/national ‘pride’ which often coincided with when they were net-exporters of legend, myth, cultural memes, religious or political movements and conceptual ‘products’ to Europe and to the world. It is the texts and iconography originating in these periods and then migrating into digital formats (mediated) that I will study.

3) Key Point: Both of these groups have endured centuries of chronic oppression or cultural marginalization or suppression, even at times to the point of annihilation of their national identities, or to the miserable status of an undesirable ‘language without prestige.’

4) Key Point: What is most important for this year-long study is the ways and means by which the historical texts, iconography and symbolism of these communities have transitioned and transformed during the migration from oral traditions and written or performed texts to transmitted audiovisual formats and that are now ‘morphing’ into the socially-networked platforms of the ‘Digital Age’.

5) Key Point: Equally important is the impact of these new media on the reception of these texts, icons and images, and these ways in which the medium informs the message.

6) Key Point: Because the cultural ‘memes’ of these two communities have been ‘wrapped up’ closely with religious practices, there has been a tendency for the cultural memory to be lost when the community shifts toward a different religious or social ‘mythology’. Consequently a divergence from the prevailing underlying religious norms could be equated to ‘leaving’ the group of embracing a fatal ‘schism’ within the community.

This is noted when Welsh Mormons followed Joseph Smith, and while the Welsh tolerated and included Unitarians and Quakers, the Reorganized Church of the Latter Day Saints bested the elasticity of their group identities.

7) Key Point: Modern scholars within and without these communities have sometimes overlooked or have been blinded by their own anti-clerical biases or ‘cultural myopia’. Consequently the theological shifts driven by a ‘grassroots’ adherence to the Cult of Padre Pio are dismissed by some within Roman Catholicism and over looked by European or Italian as the impetus behind a ‘shadow’ devolution or de facto federalism.

Similarly, the historical ‘authenticity’ of prestige heritage sites at the National Museum of Wales are said to be representative of the Llanbrynmair tradition, which privileged one minority denominational worldview while marginalizing the majority preferences in architecture, costume and custom.

Additionally, modern Welsh social concepts that originated in religious dogma like the pillars of ‘parchus’ or respectability are mostly unexamined or rejected for their intensely religious origins by a secular post-industrial civil society.

Theoretical ‘Ethos’ and Approaches

What does a nation remember about itself? Prevailing notions of individual, regional and national identity are formed from the artefacts of a collective cultural memory.

But in modern societies that are reliant upon and informed by variously integrated, complex, transnational audiovisual industries, who creates the collection and who has access to the mnemonic archives?

And since societies are increasingly globally connected, i.e., crossing economic, linguistic and cultural borders, who serves as the ‘gatekeeper’ and who translates and interprets the collection both at home and abroad?

In 1992 Jan Assmann introduced to archaeological discourses two key concepts: ‘cultural memory’ (Erinnerungskultur) and ‘references to times past’ (Vergangenheitsbezug). Assmann was concerned with the intended ‘narrative’ surrounding historic events captured and depicted within ancient stone monuments, religious buildings and ornaments and sculpture (Assmann 1992: 17-19).

Assmann and others since built arguments that asserted parallels between the construction of individual memory and collective or social memory. Assmann even applied cross-disciplinary elements of ‘reception theory’ to history, i.e., ‘mnemohistory’ (Assmann 1997: 14-15; Assmann and Livingstone 2005).

In order to analyze ‘the use of media and the formation of (trans) national memory communities’ we need to understand how past recollections are situated with meaning in contemporary societies.

The rudiments of ‘narrative’ transmitted through enduring images in stone will allow us to see similarities with Assmann’s early assertions. We also need to consider the unique differences between contemporary society and prior, less technical societies in constructing their collective memories.

A key point of difference is how the introduction of new ‘traditions’ of representation intended to ‘process’ perceived social ‘change’ and how this effects and affects the reception of cultural memory

These traditions dramatize and formalize through ceremonial repetition the necessarily vague and abstract values and identities of new sorts of imagined communities.

They thus give the appearance of tangible form to the idea of a collective memory, and thereby reassuringly locate novelty in a social continuity that transcends the limitations of personal experience (Chaney 2001: 209)

For example, the ‘icons’, saints and heretics of today aren’t often carved in marble, but rather are more likely to be sports heroes, film stars and members of the ‘cult of celebrity’.

Individuals receive more news about who they are and where they’ve been through the nightly television news broadcasts (formerly controlled by national governments and increasingly controlled by international corporations) than through any crumbling façade’s bas-relief.

There is even a superficial borrowing of ancient names by gurus of so-called ‘new media’ whose cyber-loci jargon includes ‘milestones’, ‘events’, ‘sites’, and ‘landmarks’.

Consequently the mass media serves as a reflective ‘mirror’ in which the nation looks to find itself and to understand change. The mass media develops content locally but the accessibility, interpretation and distribution of this content is increasingly controlled by transnational entities.

Chaney’s description of new ‘traditions’ of representation comes from an essay about the British ‘mediated’ monarchy, utilizing an examination of the Queen and her family. Chaney tells us how the ‘tradition’ constructed for local purposes of collective memory anticipates, is informed by and constructs the transnational mnemonic

The British royal family are unusual celebrities in that their fame is displayed in the performance of public duties, ritual occasions, that occasionally become international ‘media events’ . . . In both aspects it seems that they have been genuinely popular with the mass media audiences of global, not just British, media (Chaney 2001: 208).

Chaney notes the fluidity of this mnemonic construction, built upon the perceived durability of a centuries-old ruling family.

The flexibility of a concept, i.e., the ‘Queen’ to adapt to new ‘narratives’ (which are the pillars of media-created ‘traditions’) reveals important aspects about how a transnational mnemonic is formed and transmitted

It seems that the changes generating new institutions, such as mass education or the politics of mass democracy, could be effectively legitimized through being given a factitious historical cast; that is, through inventing traditions to give order, cohesion, and legitimacy to new social practices (Chaney 2001: 209).

Chaney leads us to see the ‘Queen’ once a self-conscious contributor to events meant to construct a national memory, now as an institution, icon and cultural ‘actor’ whose is increasingly losing control of how her ‘majesty’ is transmitted and received

I will go on to suggest that in the news rhetoric of an era of mass culture it has become increasingly difficult for all public figures to control their presentation, and particularly to find ways of controlling the image of actors of the royal family to show them to be always acting as moral exemplars (Chaney 2001: 211).

Consequently we unflattering or ironic portrayals of the ‘Queen’ in the international youth culture hit film Human Traffic (1999) where the plot turns on a revised, drunken pub sing-a-long of ‘God Save the Queen’ (with coded Welsh Nationalism undertones).

In the 1980s the name ‘Queen’ became a musical and androgynous emblem of an emerging ‘Queer Nation’ as the late Freddie Mercury admitted choosing the name ‘Queen’ for his rock band because it was at once ‘regal’ and ‘internationally-appealing’, as the band’s logo shamelessly copied the British Royal Family Coat of Arms.

Finally we see Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren self-consciously creating a legendary filmic character synthesized from the mythos of a living, iconic individual (an individual who has self-reflectively who spent her life observing the act of her own life being ‘invented’ by the mass media) in The Queen (2006).


Recent research by the Annenberg School of Communication created useful models for addressing and balancing the critical tension in differing schools of social studies and communication /mass media studies, particularly fixated upon controversies related to the Macro/Micro-research modalities and critical pathways.

Annenberg School of Communication

The "Metamorphosis: Transforming the Ties that Bind" Project is an in-depth examination of the transformations of urban community, under the forces of globalization, new communication technologies, and population diversity. We seek to understand this transformation from a new "communication infrastructure perspective" that orients our multi-method research program (Annenberg School of Communications).

For the purposes of my yearlong study I intend to incorporate and adapt from ‘Geo-ethnic’ to ‘Cyber-ethnic’ within the models already developed by scholars at the Annenberg School of Communications in Los Angeles, California. The following illustration graphically encapsulates their theoretical approach:

[Image above is Copyright 2008 Metamorphosis, Annenberg School for Communication, USC, used for educational illustration purposes only.]

I intend to create a synthesis of methodologies based upon the theoretical model of the Metamorphosis study, that is to say guided by ‘communication infrastructure theory’, but informed by the social studies, film studies, history, theology and philological studies, with a film foundation in ‘cultural memory’ studies.

Primary sources would include those led by Professor Sandra Ball-Rokeach (Jung, Ball-Rokeach et al. 2007; Lin, Song et al. 2007) and others including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins (Jenkins 2006).

Cultural memory sources and discussions of ‘Intermediality’ are diverse and interdisciplinary (Cole and Gay 1972; Hall 1991; Halbwachs 1992; Kenny 1999; Ryan 2001; Assmann 2007).

Studies of ritual and media include Bound and Unbound Entities: Reflections on the ethnographic perspectives of anthropology vis-à-vis media and culture studies by Eric Hirsch (Hirsch 1998) and others (Morgan 1983; Davies 1998).

In my prior research I posited how gendered and post-colonial/literary studies theoretical concept of the so-called ‘female grotesque’ was useful in decoding the mutilated hero/heroine and ‘dying god’ metaphorically, symbolically and otherwise (Russo 1994).

I believe this approach is still useful in this study as I examine aspects of the Cult of the Saints (Brown 1981) and the audience reception / industrial consumption of texts related to heroic Eisteddfod poets or San Pio and others.


Assmann, A. (2007). "Response to Peter Novick." GHI Bulletin 40(Spring).

Assmann, J. (1992). Das kulturelle Gedächtnis. Schrift, Erinnerung und politische Identität in frühen Hochkulturen. Munich, Beck.

Assmann, J. (1997). Moses the Egyptian. The Memory of Egypt in Western Monotheism. Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, Harvard University Press.

Assmann, J. and R. Livingstone (2005). Religion and Cultural Memory: Ten Studies (Cultural Memory in the Present). Stanford, California, Stanford University Press.

Brown, P. R. L. (1981). The Cult of the Saints. Chicago and London, University of Chicago Press.

Chaney, D. (2001). The Mediated Monarchy. British Cultural Studies. D. Morley and K. Robins. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Cole, M. and J. Gay (1972). "Culture and Memory." American Anthropologist 74(5).

Davies, C. A. (1998). 'A oes heddwch?' Contesting meaning and identities in the Welsh National Eisteddfod. Ritual, Performance, Media. F. Hughes-Freeland. London, Routledge: 141-159.

Halbwachs, M. (1992). On Collective Memory. Chicago and London, Unviersity of Chicago Press.

Hall, S. (1991). The Local and the Global: Globlaization and Ethnicity. Culture, Globalization and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity. A. D. King. Binghamton, New York, SUNY at Binghamton/MacMillan: 19-40.

Handelman, D. (1990). Models and Mirrors: Toward an Anthropology of Public Events. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hirch, E. (1998). Bound and Unbound Entities: Reflections on the ethnographic perspectives of anthropology viv-à-vis media and culture studies. Ritual, Performance, Media. F. Hughes-Freeland. London, Routledge.

Jenkins, H. (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, New York University Press.

Jung, J.-Y., S. J. Ball-Rokeach, et al. (2007). ICTs and Communities in the 21st Century: Challenges and Perspectives. Oxford Handbook of Information and Communication Technologies. C. Ciborra, R. Mansell, D. Quah and R. Silverstone. Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Kenny, M. G. (1999). "A Place for Memory: The Interface between Individual and Collective History." Comparative Studies in Society and History 41(3): 420-437.

Lin, W.-Y., H. Song, et al. (2007). Local Media, global content? Exploring the Ties that bind in new immigrant communities. Philadelphia, Temple University Press.

Morgan, P. (1983). From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period. The Invention of Tradition. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press: 43-100.

Morgan, P. (1983). From a Death to a View: The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period. The Invention of Tradition. E. Hobsbawm and T. Ranger. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Russo, M. (1994). The Female Grotesque: risk, excess, and modernity. London, Routledge.

Ryan, M.-L. (2001). Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Electronic Media. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Turner, V. (1969). The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press.

AIM: ATRiuM Intelligent Media

Chapter Arts Centre Cardiff

Cardiff School of Creative & Cultural Industries


Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Welsh-American Family Genealogy, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Welsh Music, Film, and Books Symposium, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Celtic Cult Cinema on the World Wide Web.

Visit the UK Film Studies and World Cinema and Music Import Showcase

© 2008 Dr. Mark Leslie Woods

Smart & Sexy? Your Queer Advantage is waiting!

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Queer Advantage, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Mordechai Razing Ziggurats, on the World Wide Web.

Click here to go directly to my personal blog page called Mordechai's Post-Evangelical-Granola on the World Wide Web.

© 2008 Dr. Mark Leslie Woods