Culture and Anarchy | work by Arnold | irufijim.ga
These are the words that in the New Historicism and affiliated cultural criticisms now serve much the same function as did in the New Criticism ambiguity, tension, paradox or irony, on the one hand, and unity, harmony, pattern, on the other. Literature or intellect, we increasingly say, is subversive of dominant culture; yet dominance, we also recognize, is uncannily subversive of subversion.
Subvert, oppose, contest, transgress—the purposely slogan-like chant upon which I began—is a protest banner hung within cultural criticism as if in some museum of popular culture.
It is contained, even as it appreciates in critical value. Let me be extreme for a moment.
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Acting government agent and cultural critic without distinction, let me actually indict Wordsworth for subversion as if drawing up one of the sedition and treason cases of the Pittite repression in the mid s. The collation of these inquiries will be a way to try out—and, as I will imagine it, to bring to trial—the basic assumptions of cultural criticism as a method of reading. What kind of contextual and textual event does the method explain that could not be explained before?
And what drops out of the picture to make the explanation possible?
Everyone's a critic now
Neither of us is ready to concede, and others will weigh the arguments for themselves. That Collini really is engaged in a defence is beyond doubt. But what is the substance of the position he wishes to defend?
My purpose here is to attempt an outline of his cultural criticism, as it emerges in response to Metaculture and in a selection of other relevant writings from the past fifteen years. It will be necessary to tread lightly.
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Having begun his scholarly career as an intellectual historian in the contextualist style of Quentin Skinner and his collaborators, Collini has gone on to develop a recognizably literary approach still further at variance with the textbook histories of thought. However, he has given some headwords as preliminary guidance: culture, politics, intellectuals.
Others will emerge in the course of discussion. It is not, or not only, criticism of culture. The criticism it underwrites is politically modest in ambition and effect, not driven as metacultural discourse supposedly is, and certainly not fated to reactionary conclusions.
Its touchstones can be found in T. What is less clear, however, is its logic. But the difficulty is not simply semantic, and it cannot be resolved, even temporarily, by a self-aware, negotiated protocol of usage of the kind he now sets out. For if the restrictive meaning of culture is in one respect shared, as familiar currency, in another it is a site of inescapable contention.
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