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Of Boars, Rhapsodes, and the Uses of Culturalist Error

Of Boars, Rhapsodes, and the Uses of Culturalist Error LASSIFICATORY SY STEMS WORK A WEIRD MAGIC upon the world. Their enforcement of arbitrary division and homogenization is the constant work of language: these forces have a power to trap the swarming anarchy of detail that attention confronts everywhere. Culturally-defined schemata are as guilty of this as any other variety, and the attempt to characterize national or ethnic cultures as unities susceptible to summary has had a particularly troubling history. Culturalist logic has retained a peculiar aesthetic force since the earliest days of colonialism, and even the most monstrous sadnesses of the drive to empire have been obscured by the radiance of imagined structures. Although it is not difficult for academics to move beyond over-hasty categories —we do so at the urgings of something almost instinctual—the various critiques performed by recent postcolonial criticism have been revelatory. Old habits of mind have been deployed in new ways, movements of cultural force and subversion traced and delineated, and “world literature” (if not Weltliteratur ) given a reality and a bittersweet history that one could never have suspected from the well-meant abstractions of core classes everywhere. The European canon is no enemy to the mainstream of such criticism, just a foil http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Comparative Literature Duke University Press

Of Boars, Rhapsodes, and the Uses of Culturalist Error

Comparative Literature , Volume 57 (4) – Jan 1, 2005

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2005 by University of Oregon
ISSN
0010-4124
eISSN
1945-8517
DOI
10.1215/-57-4-312
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

LASSIFICATORY SY STEMS WORK A WEIRD MAGIC upon the world. Their enforcement of arbitrary division and homogenization is the constant work of language: these forces have a power to trap the swarming anarchy of detail that attention confronts everywhere. Culturally-defined schemata are as guilty of this as any other variety, and the attempt to characterize national or ethnic cultures as unities susceptible to summary has had a particularly troubling history. Culturalist logic has retained a peculiar aesthetic force since the earliest days of colonialism, and even the most monstrous sadnesses of the drive to empire have been obscured by the radiance of imagined structures. Although it is not difficult for academics to move beyond over-hasty categories —we do so at the urgings of something almost instinctual—the various critiques performed by recent postcolonial criticism have been revelatory. Old habits of mind have been deployed in new ways, movements of cultural force and subversion traced and delineated, and “world literature” (if not Weltliteratur ) given a reality and a bittersweet history that one could never have suspected from the well-meant abstractions of core classes everywhere. The European canon is no enemy to the mainstream of such criticism, just a foil

Journal

Comparative LiteratureDuke University Press

Published: Jan 1, 2005

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