The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies
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The subject of the aesthetic has returned to cultural and literary debates with a vengeance. The Aesthetics of Cultural Studies is a timely and authoritative collection of essays that analyze the role of aesthetics in American and British cultural studies, and reflect on its recuperation in the field.
- Contains first-rate, original essays that analyze the role of aesthetics in American and British cultural studies, and reflect on its recuperation in the field.
- Contributors are leading scholars, internationally based.
- Includes substantial introductory material by the editor.
itself’’ (p. 359). In so defining himself against the Wittgensteinian/pragmatist argument that the meaning of a word is simply its use in the language, Jakobson also repudiates Mukarovsky’s insistence that the aesthetic is a function attributed to objects rather than an attribute possessed by objects by virtue of their creator’s intent. 8 Williams closes ‘‘Base and Superstructure’’ with a section entitled ‘‘Objects and Practices’’ in which he writes that ‘‘the true crisis in cultural theory, in
mechanisms of signification’’ (1995: 145). In other words, the very appeal to aesthetic value presuppose a framework that defines certain properties rather than others as aesthetically valuable. Simon Frith puts the case more succinctly: ‘‘value judgements only make sense as part of an argument and arguments are always social events’’ (1996: 95). Cultural studies reminds us that there are other arguments, other values, other ways of appreciating and discriminating between works, than those that
insensitive to style and form as their detractors often make out. If we can arrive at a more careful and circumspect use of the term ‘‘cultural studies,’’ – and a more careful and circumspect practice of cultural studies – then I, for one, will live happily ever after.6 NOTES This chapter draws on some material first published in a short article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, entitled (not by me) ‘‘Scholars who Disdain Cultural Studies Don’t Know What They are Talking About,’’ July 23,
those readings are not assessed as such in relation to any definite correct readings. Rather, they count as misreadings only in relation to a normatively prescribed correct way of reading – the literary or aesthetic mode – in which there is produced, for and within the literary text, that inexhaustible depth which can allow it to function as a device for the reader’s self-improvement by means of the revision and correction of earlier readings.’’ (1990: 183) This process guarantees the job of the
New Criticism perpetuated the status quo in literary studies, for the philologists and literary historians who had previously dominated the discipline also dealt with literature that others had judged to be great. English 109 DAVID SHUMWAY professors’ arguments didn’t canonize Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton, and their arguments didn’t canonize Eliot, James, or Melville either. However, this is not to say that professors had no role in the construction and perpetuation of the canon.