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Cultural criticism

Related: art criticism - criticism - culture - film criticism - literary criticism - music criticism

19th century cultural critics: Matthew Arnold - Charles Baudelaire - John Ruskin

20th century cultural critics: Walter Benjamin - Camille Paglia - Robert Warshow


A cultural critic is a critic of a given culture, usually as a whole and typically on a radical basis. Cultural criticism is normally understood to deal with some fundamental perceived problems, rather than minor improvements: it is asserted that things are heading in the wrong direction, or that values are wrongly placed.

A cultural critic therefore stands, in relation to intellectual or artistic life, or certain social arrangements or educational practices, roughly where a prophet would in respect of religious life. Cultural critics came to the fore in the nineteenth century. Matthew Arnold is a leading example of a cultural critic of the Victorian age; in him there is also a concern for religion. John Ruskin was another - because of an equation made between ugliness of material surroundings and an impoverished life, aesthetes and others might be considered implicitly to be engaging in cultural criticism, but the actual articulation is what makes a critic.

In the twentieth century Irving Babbitt on the right, and Walter Benjamin on the left, might be considered major cultural critics. The field of play has changed considerably, in that the humanities have broadened to include cultural studies of all kinds. A cultural critic might still be distinguished by being firmly judgemental, rather than concentrating on the role of objective scholar. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cultural_critic [Jun 2005]

see also: cultural criticism - culture - criticism

Criticism vs studies

«In Great Britain, the terms cultural criticism and cultural studies have been used more or less interchangeably, and, to add to the confusion, both terms have been used to refer to two different things. On the one hand, they have been used to refer to the analysis of literature (including popular literature) and other art forms in their social, political, or economic contexts; on the other hand, they have been used to refer to the much broader inter-disciplinary study of the interrelationships between a variety of cultural discourses and practices (such as advertising, gift-giving, and racial categorization). In North America, the term cultural studies is usually reserved for this broader type of analysis, whereas cultural criticism typically refers to work with a predominantly literary or artistic focus.» (Ross Murfin and Supryia M. Ray, The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms, Boston and New York: Bedford Books, 1997, p. 65)-- http://french.chass.utoronto.ca/fcs195/cultural-studies.html

Marxism [...]

[...] As is clear from the paragraphs above, the emergence and evolution of cultural studies or criticism are difficult to separate entirely from the development of Marxist thought. Marxism is, in a sense, the background to the background of most cultural criticism, and some contemporary cultural critics consider themselves Marxist critics as well. Thus, although Marxist criticism and its most significant practitioners are introduced elsewhere in this volume, some mention of Marxist ideas— and of the critics who developed them--is also necessary here. Of particular importance to the evolution of cultural criticism are the works of Walter Benjamin, Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and Mikhail Bakhtin. --Johanna Smith

Critics [...]

Cultural critics and commentators contribute powerfully to the vitality of market art. Critics put artistic consumers in touch with artistic producers, and help us separate the wheat from the chaff. They support the process of taste refinement. Listeners who take a sudden interest in classical music do not have to sort through the entire eighteenth century repertoire, but can listen to Mozart and Haydn. Clement Rosenberg and Harold Greenberg helped the American Abstract Expressionist painters find a public audience and win their way into museums. Pauline Kael directs our attention to the best of recent film. I hope my own commentary - in the form of this book - boosts the interest in contemporary art and music. These forms of professional cultural criticism, all relatively new professions, owe their thanks to capitalist wealth. The modern world can support many thousands of intellectuals who specialize in arguing the merits of artistic products. -- Tyler Cowen [...]

Culture and Anarchy (1869) - Matthew Arnold

Culture and Anarchy is a book by Matthew Arnold, first published in 1869.

Arnold's famous piece of writing on culture established his High Victorian cultural agenda which remained dominant in debate from the 1860s until the 1950s.

According to his view advanced in the book, "Culture [...] is a study of perfection". He further wrote that: "[Culture] seeks to do away with classes; to make the best that has been thought and known in the world current everywhere; to make all men live in an atmosphere of sweetness and light [...]".

This passage is often misquoted as "[culture is] the best that has been thought and said". --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_and_Anarchy [Oct 2005]

Matthew Arnold (24 December 1822 – 15 April 1888) was an English poet and cultural critic, who worked as an inspector of schools. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Arnold [Oct 2005]

See also: anarchy - 1869

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