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humanities 169 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Although the prose insists on making a >conceptual= point (history = body, sans residue), in fact, the concept is just another pretty metaphor. Perhaps, then, to fault theory for being indifferent to literature is unfair. Rather than being absent from poststructuralism, perhaps >literature= is present as abstract poetry. (T.H. ADAMOWSKI) Shaobo Xie and Fengzhen Wang, editors. Dialogues on Cultural Studies: Interviews with Contemporary Critics University of Calgary Press. xviii, 280. $34.95 This book results from an international conference, >Critical Theories: China and West,= held at Hunan Normal University, Hunan, China, in 1997. In the months following the conference, the editors conducted the interviews by email . The interviewees are Arif Dirlik, Teresa Ebert, Barbara Foley, Fredric Jameson, Pamela McCallum, J. Hillis Miller, Masao Miyoshi, Bruce Robbins, John Carlos Rowe, Henry Schwarz, Richard Terdiman, and Hayden White. This collection distinguishes itself from other collections of interviews in the way that it lives up to the word >dialogues= in its title, in the absence of the effects of face-to-face dialogues between interviewer and interviewee. The feature that nonetheless gives this work substance is that all the interviewees are asked the same thirty-three questions. Dialogues thus emerge when one organizes one=s reading around multiple responses to particular questions. In their introduction, the editors offer an insightful sampling of these illuminating dialogues, which also make the volume particularly valuable for classroom use in courses in cultural studies. The volume, however, is not quite as symmetrical as I=ve made it sound. Only two interviewees respond to all or nearly all of the questions (Ebert, Rowe). Some write essays designed to respond to some of the questions (Miller, Miyoshi, Schwarz, Terdiman). Most select some of the questions, responding to them individually, or in small groups of two or three. One engages in an e-mail dialogue with the editors to supplement her answers to her selection of questions (Foley). These differences, however, are more of an advantage than a disadvantage. Whatever is lost in not seeing every interviewee responding to each question is more than compensated for by adding consideration of why each interviewee made his or her choices. One could even ask students to identify what it is about a particular theorist=s approach that makes some questions more pertinent than others. The various issues in cultural studies that are debated in these dialogues are effectively encompassed in Cultural Critique=s statement of purpose in its first issue in 1985: rather than consider cultural phenomena >as isolated, self-subsisting artifacts,= such phenomena are to be considered >in terms of their economic, political, social, and aesthetic genealogies, constitutions, and effects.= Culture is the context of contexts, the container of all these 170 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 genealogies. Objections to the project of cultural studies over the last few decades have typically come from those who wish to turn back the clock to study literature for itself, as a >self-subsisting artifact.= An example would be Harold Bloom, who became a particularly prominent and public voice on this issue in the 1990s. It might, however, be more useful to question cultural studies from another angle, one suggested by cultural studies itself. Cultural studies insists on the value of looking at things not in their isolation but in their broader cultural context. But culture itself is conceived in splendid isolation. Culture contextualizes but it is not itself contextualized. It=s this conception of culture as totally autonomous that makes one wonder if cultural studies, even as it sees itself questioning modernity, is really deeply embedded in modernity=s dualistic world-view that separates humankind from its earthly habitat. Michael Serres, in The Natural Contract (1992, translated 1995), suggests that what is genuinely new in our time is the unprecedented extent to which history is entering nature and nature is entering history. John Bellamy Foster=s Marx=s Ecology: Materialism and Nature (2000) reminds the Marxist tradition that historical materialism encompasses a dialectic of nature as well as a socioeconomic dialectic. The recent emergence of ecocriticism and the explosive growth...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 169-170
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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