Revolutions in Romantic Literature Article Review

Excerpt from Article Review :

Pierre Bourdieu, "The Field of Cultural Production" from David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery, the Book History Reader, London: Routledge, 2002.

Bordieu's work is interesting in terms of analyzing contemporary media production. It is interesting that a person's profession defines and narrows is or her perspective. To wit: Bourdieu spoke about 'culture'. Now, even though his intention was culture in the conventional sense, fields including science (which in turn includes social science), law and religion, as well as expressive domains such as art, literature and music, when he spoke about culture he onerously focused on the expressive-aesthetic fields, namely literature and art. These were his occupations and this is what the man thought about. It is possible that another, perhaps a scientist, writing about culture, would extract th scientific aspect of it. Since Bourdeau was an author, he approached it form that tangent and, thereby, gave culture his own p-articular meaning.

What I mean to point out over here is that there is almost no terms that is free from subjective interpretation and impulse of our experiences. Our personal experiences, tendencies, socialization, and so forth paint and warp the way we see things and Bourdieu, for instance, constructed 'culture' according to his particular perspective. For Bourdieu, for instance, 'the principal obstacle to a rigorous science of the production of the value of cultural goods' is the 'charismatic ideology of "creation" ' and this was to be found in art, literature, and similar cultural fields. Bourdieu was focusing on the aesthetic experiences alone. Similarly when he speaks of the producer of culture is always the "painter, composer, writer" who has "the magic power of transubstantiation with which the "creator" is endowed' (Bourdieu, 1996/1992: 167).

Bourdeius's theory of cultural production was based on his own ideas of capital and field and this was largely based by his particular experiences and occupation or obsessions. Bourdieu was largely involved in literature and art and, therefore, when he thought of culture, he defined it within those terms. Another, of a different profession, may have defined it in quite different terms and arrived at a different context.

Frank Donoghue. Introduction and Chapter One, "The Fame Machine: Book Reviewing and Eighteenth-Century Literary Careers," Stanford: Stanford UP, 1996.

This is somewhat similar to the opinion expressed by Bourdeau in that knowledge, norms, interpretations are constructed by one's particular experiences.

Donoghue argues that up until a certain era - the late 18th century -- authors were made so by dint of aristocratic patronage and that later, it was th public who selected them and gave them their homage.

Here, too, it is interesting to note that greatness was defined, not so much by an objective intrinsic value, but rather by the mass of the people or b y the personality of a certain individual. If the individual was famous or lofty or sufficiently wealthy he (and it was most times he) could declare a certain person to be a 'great' author. Later on, this responsibility fell to the masses, but again the masses were swayed by certain influential people. At the end of the day, therefore, most 'great' authors were likely so only due to the fact that certain 'great' people pronounced them so, and, again, these 'great' people owed their 'greatness' to certain subjective impermanent human values. It make you wonder what 'great' is.

It is also interesting to see th shift in history -w hen exactly transmission of 'greatness' fell from the aristocracy to the masses. Johnson says to Boswell in 1773: "we have done with patronage" (3); and later Johnson berates Chesterfield for failing to support the author of the "Dictionary." Either way, ti may be that as the public, a s a whole, became more interested in books and more literate, they soon became more vocal in their opinions. Again, even here, it was the more influential of the public whose opinion carried the day. Ultimately, therefore, reputation of an author simply passed from one opinion-maker to another. Initially, it was the aristocrat whose money patronized the author and lifted him to fame. Later, it was the masses whose power hailed a certain man's name above that of the others. Fame, ultimately, rested on subjective nuances and opinions of certain individuals. The "fame machine," therefore, rests on pandering to and fulfilling the tastes and demands of influential individuals. With these premises, fame is a shifty and unreliable construct. And, a t the end of the day, one wonders what 'greatness' really entails for if it largely or exclusively represents pandering the hedonistic tastes of a comparative few, 'greatness' or fame can come to be seen as shallow and meaningless.

John Brewer, "The Most Polite Age and the Most Vicious": Attitudes Towards Culture as a Commodity, 1660-1800"

Brewer comes out openly about what he sees as representative of 'culture." For him, culture is "What came to be defined in the eighteenth century as what Edmund Burke called "works of imagination and the elegant arts."

It is interesting that Brewer clearly says that his picture of culture differs to that of the anthropologist's take and he recognizes that along with this come problems of historical nature, since a shift in a definition accrues exponential effects.

The anthropologists' perspective and account of 'culture' differs radically from that of an author / artist. It may veer into discussions of the causes and ramification of culture as well as cultural expressions and cultural relativity -- the moral question of whether different cultural truths exists and should be allowed. To the extreme, there are many who insists (taking the anthropological / scientific view) that 'culture' or ethnicity' per se does no exist but, rather that it is an erroneous stereotype of humanity.

Imbuing 'culture' with the trappings of art, however, we veer into a totally different direction, where culture is separated from 'race' and where culture can soar up to transcendental heights. It may veer into problematic currents too, as when one country proclaims itself to possess superior culture. Here again we see the subjectiveness of the term and the state. The latter definition of culture, however, diametrically differs from the first.

Interesting, too, is the fact that whilst the anthropologist's definition may have more of a permanent structure -- since cultures, as per races, arguably, have and always will exist, 'culture' as per the artistic infusion varies form country to county and form age to age. Grecian art was culture in its specific epoch, as well as in the Renaissance era. It may be culture still today, but abstract or naive art, whilst arguably contemporaneity culture, would not have been culture of the Ancient Greek era. Similarly, too, different countries have particular cultures that may not necessarily transcend countries. African culture is peculiarly African, for instance.

The 'artistic' culture therefore has utterly different nuances from that of the scientific 'culture', and this is what Brewer may have meant in his essay.

Alan Richardson, "Introduction," from Literary Magazines and British Romanticism

The fact that 'culture' per embodiment of meaning changed from era to era, with certain eras imposing a sharply different shift on the term can be seen in Richardson's treatment of the Romantic age in general and Romantic scholarship in particular.

Romantic scholarship in the last decade of the twentieth century effectively transformed the object of study, bringing not only new attention to women writers and issues of slavery, empire, and colonialism into the field but making slave narratives, antislavery writing, and writing by women in many genres integral to a newly expanded and configured Romantic canon. (Abstract)

'Culture' thereby changed again with the masses popularizing work by female writers and causing many heretofore neglected and, possibly despised themes such as slavery to be considered 'culture'. Again, it was the spirit of the times -- politics and circumstances -- that caused…

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