Modernism, American Literary Studies, and the Problem of Culture
Publication Year: 2013
The term "culture" has become ubiquitous in both academic and popular conversations, but its usefulness is a point of dispute. Taking the current shift from cultural studies to aesthetics as the latest form of this discussion, Eric Aronoff contends that in American modernism, the concepts of culture and of aesthetics have always been inseparable. The modernist concept of culture, he argues, arose out of an interdisciplinary dialogue about value, meaning, and form among social critics, artists, anthropologists, and literary critics, including figures as diverse as Van Wyck Brooks, Edward Sapir, Willa Cather, Lewis Mumford, John Crowe Ransom, Raymond Weaver, and Allen Tate. These figures proposed new ways to conceive of culture that intertwined theories of aesthetic and literary value with theories of national, racial, and regional identity. Through close readings, Aronoff shows that disciplines and approaches that are often thought of as opposed—cultural anthropology and aesthetics, American literary history and literary criticism, and multiculturalism and regionalism—are in fact engaged in common debate and proceed from shared arguments about culture and form.
Published by: University of Virginia Press
Title Page, Copyright
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Over the course of this project’s development, I have benef_ited from the conversation, advice, and support of many colleagues and friends. I would particularly like to thank Eduardo Cadava, Brad Evans, Scott Herring, Myra Jehlen, Walter Johnston, Jack Kerkering, Walter Benn Michaels, Steve Rachman, Guy Reynolds, Eric Santner, Leif Sorensen, ...
Introduction: The Problem of Culture
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In their recent survey of the state of literary studies, William B. War-ner and Clifford Siskin argue that the time has come—as their title proclaims—for “stopping cultural studies.”one.fitted For Warner and Siskin, the reason is straightforward: “culture is the problem with cultural studies” (one.oldstylezero.oldstylefour.oldstyle, emphasis in original). Before cultural studies, they claim, literary ...
1 / Van Wyck Brooks and Edward Sapir:Divided America and the Form of Genuine Culture
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This chapter sets the context for what I argue is the interdisciplinary debate over culture in early American modernism, and it lays out several key contours of that debate—contours that will in different ways in dif-ferent disciplinary arenas structure debates within modernist anthro-pology, literary criticism, and “Americanist” canon reformation. Specif_i-...
2 / Possessing Culture: Willa Cather’s Aestheticof Culture in The Song of the Lark andThe Professor’s House
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Artistic growth is, more than it is anything else, a refining of the sense of truthfulness. . . . That afternoon nothing new came to Thea Kronborg, no enlightenment, no inspiration. She merely came into full possession of That was the first night I was ever really on the mesa at all—the first night all of me was there. This was the first time I ever saw it as a ...
3 / Cultures, Canons, and Cetology:Modernist Culture and the Melville Revival
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I have argued that culture formed a central problematic for American anthropologists, writers, and critics in the one.oldstyle9two.oldstylezero.oldstyles and one.oldstyle9three.oldstylezero.oldstyles. Even as Amer-ican artists and critics attempted to redef_ine the content of a particularly American culture, the form of culture was itself under intense debate, as nineteenth-century def_initions of culture as a general process of devel-...
4 / Recovering the Whole: Culture, Region, and Poetry in the Literary Criticism of John Crowe Ransomand Allen Tate
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In his essay “Literature as Knowledge” (one.oldstyle9four.oldstyleone.oldstyle), Allen Tate tellingly begins his survey of recent semiotic and psychological theories of language not with a discussion of semiotics or psychology, but with a discus-sion of “culture”—specif_ically, the “Culture” of Matthew Arnold. Faced with “the accumulating body of the inert, descriptive facts of science,” ...
Conclusion: Composing Critical Cultures
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Composing Cultures argues that “culture” formed a central problem(atic) for American modernism between one.oldstyle9one.oldstylefive.oldstyle and one.oldstyle9four.oldstyleone.oldstyle—a problematic that not only shaped the literary and other artistic compositions we think of as “modernist,” but also crucially shaped, in complexly parallel ways, the disciplines of anthropology, literary criticism, and American liter-...
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Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013
Series Title: Cultural Frames, Framing Culture