Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


David Humphries

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | American Film Studies | American Popular Culture | Other Music | Politics and Social Change | Television


Nostalgia, Soundtracks, Collective Memory, Music and Politics, Television Music, American Studies


Following the 2016 American Presidential election, celebrity endorsements proved to be a more narrow gauge of public opinion than ever. The symbolic alignment with popular musicians, which had long abetted the Democratic Party’s standing with youth and particular identity groups, seemed only to reaffirm the party’s establishment status, drawing disavowal in a wave of anti-establishment sentiment on both the left and right. ‘Retromania,’ a term first coined by Simon Reynolds in 2010, can be tracked conceptually from the nostalgic inclinations of twenty-first century popular culture to the ideological sphere, where nostalgic, essentialized constructions of community, identity, and progress have coalesced into a political platform. Through the Democratic Party’s strategic relationships with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, and Stevie Wonder, the party’s identification with class, gender, and race, has emerged on a cultural stage circumscribed by nostalgic notions. Tracing the audiovisual afterlives of these artists through contemporary television soundtracks, which have preserved the legacy of twentieth century musicians, we can glean moments where a soundtrack of liberal nostalgia begins to form. Drawing on sound studies, gender and race theory, and postmodern media critique, “Audiovisual Afterlives: The Soundtrack of Liberal Nostalgia” illustrates how this twentieth century soundtrack has become ingrained in a collective memory that has confused yesterday’s ambitions for today’s visions of progress.