Cultural Criticism
Julie Cheng
Research and Bibliography
December 15, 1999
  1. Raymond William
  1. '"Culture of distance" results from management of society by professionals" (419)
  2. Williams's equation of  "culture" with "experience," which is contrasted with abstract and theoretical representations of experience" (420).
    1. "If physical presence, in a battle of all things, really a sufficient guarantee of pertinent knowledge?"
    2. "Is it even necessarily superior to a more distanced perspective?"
    3. "Isn't individual experience itself shaped and inhabited by those seemingly distant social and ideological structure?"
  1. The "organic community" against the "pseudo-community of the culture of professionalism"
  1. The new cultural criticism questioned the distinction between the personal and the professional.
¢º.Culture and Its Ambiguities
  1. The organic culture becomes a distant abstraction
  2. Culture is a battleground of social conflicts and contradictions
  3. Political aims of culture
  1. Emphasis on national literature in late-nineteenth century was to cultivate masses.
  2. Teaching literature is a way to control immigrants.
¢».Culture versus Theory
  1. The traditional cultural critics have seen no "redeeming value in theoretical speculation."
  2. Immediate experience joins with culture to oppose theory.
  3. Theory becomes a "preeminent case of the fragmented technocratic disciplinarity."
  4. The cultural criticism is to "shore up a supposedly once-intact social consensus threatened by the conflicts and hypertrophied self-consciousness of modern life."
  5. New Critics' view of a poem: a poem is not a statement "about" something but a symbolic "embodiment" of attitudes.
  6. Theory has destroyed a once-intact organic community.
  7. Problem of belief: Eliot thinks that poets should not "become aware of their beliefs as beliefs."
  8. Do we need the word "canon"?
¢¼.The Backlash
  1. The academicization of criticism ignores "individual personality and universal appeal" (429).
  2. The wish to return to the Arnoldian tradition:
  3. Inaccessibility of literature: Academic critics make difficult literary works inaccessible.
  4. Endless controversies: Today's professors ignore the classic texts in order to engage in "endless debates about methods."
  5. The anger of the academic new cultural criticism toward "politicization" of literature and literary study.
¢½.Cultural Studies
  1. The new theory-oriented cultural criticism attempts to change the idea that methodology, theory and culture contradict one another.
  2. A single, central culture cannot render individual experience coherent and meaningful but rather inescapable, repressed and unacknowledged.
  3. Cultural studies can best find common ground with new social movements outside the university by creating a space of debate in which questions of cultural identity and political strategy are not defined in advance.
 From Redrawing the Boundaries. Ed.  Stephen Greenblatt and Giles Gunn. New York: MLA, 1992. 159-69.