Culture Shock

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"Satire and panegyric. Works in these genres often seem immensely important when they first appear, but their power begins quickly to fade when the individuals to whom the works refer begin to fade, and the evaporation of literary power continues" (Greenblatt 437).

"The footnotes in modern editions of these works can give us the names and dates that have been lost, but they cannot in themselves enable us to reconver a sense the stakes that once gave readers pleasure and pain" (Greenblatt 437).

I think both of these statements are entirely true. My first thoughts when I read this were on Gulliver's Travels and Animal Farm. In Gulliver's Travel's Swift was most likely trying to teach his reader's something about humanity at least according to some critics. He also wrote this story around the time that England wanted to abolish christianity. Although I can't find anything about England's reaction to Swift's Gulliver's Travels Orwell who had written Animal Farm had been influenced by Swift. Part of me believes that the only reason Orwell was influenced by Swift's writting was because he wrote a book that was influential during it's time because he wanted to make some political points. I'm sure that anyone that reads either of these works react as strongly as readers of the past would have, especially since they actually lived through the realistic aspects of the works. I had to read Animal Farm in high school in history, I knew what it meant but I hated it because it was a horrible story. Maybe if I had lived through the Stalin era I would have thought differently about this book.

Back to Greenblatt



I think that we can still appreciate aspects of cultural differences, even that of the past, because we are able to empathize with the content of the work. If we can no longer empathize then the literary power that work once held does tend to evaporate. But, I also liked these quotes I almost used them in my blog. Just remember that England wasn't trying to abolish Christianity, it was Catholicism or Protestantism, I can't remember which, these are sects of Christianity.

Great blog Sue!

Angela Palumbo said:

I think that it is really cool that you read Animal Farm in your history class! I read it in my English class. I have to admit that I really don't remember the book very well, but I do believe that I liked it. I guess that proves that culture is not the only thing that influences whether or not we like a work. Although our personalities are definately affected by our cultures, there are other small factors.

Mara, I believe, although I'm unsure, that it was Catholicism. I base this off of the fact that England was trying to impress Protestantism on Ireland (Yay Irish Literature!).

Interesting blog Sue!

Greta Carroll said:

Sue, I read Animal Farm in my civics class, I don’t remember it that well either, but I wasn’t a big fan of it. However, I’m not sure this was necessarily because I didn’t understand what was going on, but more because I’m not all that into political writings. Part of the reason I like Greenblatt’s article better than some of the others for this week is that he focuses not so much on the political (Belsey really focuses on these politics), but culture. Belsey argues that politics are essentially what culture is, and Greenblatt’s article does not forbid this claim, but he looks at things more broadly. But I think you came up with some good examples of how important understanding the cultural history behind a story is. After all, if we didn’t know something about Russia’s history, we might actually think that Animal Farm is about animals.

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