< Shooting at VA Tech | Main | EL312: Apostrophizing feminist tendencies: wait--I'm a victim? >

April 21, 2007

EL312: The culture bone's connected to the funny bone

Greenblatt made me laugh (or at least write "LOL" in the margin of my book...). Here's why:

..."culture" is a term that is repeatedly used without meaning much of anything at all, a vague gesture toward a dimly perceived ethos... There is nothing especially wrong with such gestures--without them we wouldn't ordinarily be able to get through three consecutive sentences--but they are scarcely the backbone of an innovative critical practice. (437)

Oh hardy-har-har. This put an image of a fish out of water as the symbol for culture--just flailing with gesture with no real result in mind, meaning nothing (sound and fury? Ahh...).

I tend to agree, though. We overuse the word "culture" to describe anything our current society indulges--Internet culture, hip-hop culture, electronic culture. Greenblatt wrote this in 1995, so I'm sure the term was being used to describe similar things then (but I wouldn't know that since I was only about ten in 1995).

Regardless, the use and analysis of culture in literature stimulates good close reading, and that's something I'm a big fan of: "... if exploration of a particular culture will lead to a heightened understanding of a work of literature produced within that culture, so too a careful reading of a work of literature will lead to a heightened understanding of the culture within which it was produced" (438).

Maybe this is another reason I find myself learning more about history through literature (and studying art history alongside)? I know it's my favorite way to learn history... and perhaps culture, now that Greenblatt mentions it.

Greenblatt, ''Culture'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)

Posted by KarissaKilgore at April 21, 2007 9:18 PM


Way to incorporate Mr. Faulkner! LoL. It's funny to think about how things that are so significant to us now will one day will be mocked or worse yet, completely overlooked by our own children. You make an excellent point in that we are always trying to refer to culture as our own interests when we should be trying to understand the work itself.

Posted by: Erin at April 23, 2007 12:46 PM

I think the culture explosion is a relatively recent development because of the instant exposure of anything new, different, unusual or truly newsworthy. Not sure how much good it's done for the, uhm, culture though.

Posted by: Dave Moio at April 26, 2007 2:17 PM

Post a comment

Remember Me?

(you may use HTML tags for style)