Retro: The Culture of Revival by Elizabeth Guffey

Retro: The Culture of Revival reveals the surprising extent to which the past is embedded in the future.

It's a book about change. In particular, it's a book about how our view of the past has changed us. The catalyst to this change is a shift in our view of progress. Traditional historical revivals built on past successes, using the past as a foundation that could be improved. Retro has demythologized the past. It quotes past styles with an unsentimental nostalgia. And retro challenges positivist views of technology, industry, and, most of all, of progress itself. It gently nudges us away from older ideas of 'Modernity' and toward an uncharted future. The culture of revival has changed, but so have we.


'Retro' has crept into daily usage over the past thirty years. But there have yet been few attempts to define it. Half-ironic, half-longing 'retro' considers the recent past with an unsentimental nostalgia. It doesn't bother with tradition and doesn't try to reinforce social values. Instead, it often suggests a form of subversion while sidestepping historical accuracy.


Introduction: Remembering When We Were Modern

When Art Nouveau Became New Again

Moderne Times

Fabricated '50s

The Lure of Yesterday's Tomorrows