Making History: Do Current Top Hits Reflect Our Society?

When studying history, scholars refer back to artistic work done in the time period to learn more about said time’s societal behaviors, mannerisms and even etiquette. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde speaks loudly of Victorian society, Uncle Tom’s Cabin of American society, The Ulster Cycle of Irish history, and more which gives us insight of past eras.

Which therefore made me question what history would say of us. What does the million of viewers/readers for Game of Thrones, Harry Potter, etc, say about current American society, if it says anything at all? Would there be an inaccuracy if future historians were to base off their knowledge of our culture on our literature top hits? Or is history based on literature, in fact, entirely inaccurate?

  • The problem with this question is that it's virtually impossible to tell what's going to be popular for your time when you're living it. Some things that are popular fizzle out with time, whereas others endure, and the only way to tell which is which is with hindsight. I think literature can tell us something about the period in which it was written, but it requires context and background knowledge. It isn't enough to read a work from the past and immediately start speculating about what people at the time would have thought and did in their everyday lives. – Debs 1 year ago
  • I like the idea here - that you're looking at how novels can serve as a source on history. I wonder though, if this isn't two topics that might deserve their own focus? Your first set of examples talk about seeing novels as evidence of their time, and the second set of examples (for our time) is more referring to what's popular at a given time and what that says about audiences. Now those are certainly linked, but it might be more productive to focus on one or the other. Also, your contemporary examples are both genre fiction (which says a lot about the society!) but come with their own generic codes that might transcend a time scale. So that complicates a bit. Great suggestion for a topic, though. – msnfrd 1 year ago

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