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Peter Burke What is Cultural History?

24.10.2012
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Maria Zirra

on 31 October 2012

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Transcript of Peter Burke What is Cultural History?

Peter Burke
What is Cultural History? Chapter 1 - The Great Tradition Classic Cultural History Burckhardt and Huizinga
Sociology to Art History The Great Diaspora Maria Zirra
2nd Year BCS Introduction Why is there a revival of interest in cultural
history?
Internal view: "Emphasis on 'whole cultures' offers a remedy to for the current fragmentation of the discipline into specialists" (2)
External view: Part of a wider "cultural turn"
Disciplinary shift from unchanging rationality to interest in values held by groups

"Many people speak of 'culture' on everyday occasions on which twenty or thirty years ago they would have spoken of 'society' " (2) What is Culture?

"It used to refer to 'high' culture. It was extended 'downwards', to continue the metaphor, to include 'low' or culture. More recently it has expanded sideways as well. The term culture used to refer to the arts and sciences. Then it was used to describe the popular equivalents to the arts and sciences - folk music, folk medicine, and so on. In the last generation, the word has come to refer to a wide range of artifacts (images, tools, houses, and so on) and practices (conversation, reading, playing games)." (29)
----> Anthropological concern 'new cultural history'
Try to analyze its methods rather than objects: intuitive, quantitative, descriptive, semiotic
Common ground: concern with the symbolic
Maybe the wisest course would be to study its history - "although cultural history has no essence, it has a history of its own . . . . Hence, this book will comment on the cultural history of cultural history, treating it as an example of a cultural tradition in perpetual transformation" (3)
Different national traditions; 'Kultur Gesischte' 'Civilization' 'Social' vs. 'Cultural' How to define cultural history, though? Phases of Cultural History:
'Classic' Cultural History 1800-1950
Social History of Art 1930s - present
Discovery of Popular Culture 1960s onwards
'New Cultural History' 1980s Jacob Burckhardt - Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (1860)
Johan Huizinga - Autumn of the Middle Ages
'Portrait of an Age' 'Zeitgeist'
"connections between the different arts" (7)
"Its practitioners 'read' specific paintings, poems etc. as evidence of the culture and the period in which they were produced" (8) - hermeneutics Burckhardt emphasized "the recurrent, the constant and the typical" with little emphasis on history of events; evoking past culture: ex. invidualism; competitiveness; notions of modernity in Ancient Greece; Renaissance(8)
Huizinga - patterns of culture; 'themes', 'symbols', 'sentiments', 'forms'; morphological approach
ex. ideals of life, visions of the Golden Age that appealed strongly to Renaissance European Elites; (9) Max Weber - The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904) [economic history of the connection between the Protestant ethos and the accumulation of capital
---> highly influential to Norbert Elias - The Civilizing Process (1939) - history of table manners 'the culture of self-control'
Aby Warburg - 'Kulturwissenschaft'
"avoiding the 'frontier police' on the borders of scholarly disciplines" (11)
details -rather than 'portraits of the age'
'Cultural Schemata' - classical traditions and its transformations over the long term
---> Ernst-Robert Curtius 'rhetorical topoi', 'commonplaces' as enduring literary schema
--->Gombrich - 'schema and correction'
+ History of Symbols Group of Intellectuals in Hamburg: Ernst Cassirer, Erwin Panofsky, Edgar Wind,
Franz Saxl 1930s Generation Migration of the Warburg Institute intellectuals to England and the US
Migration of Central European Intellectuals to the US because of WWII ---> rise of 'cultural studies' in England and the US

=> 'History of Ideas' meets the Kulturwissenschaft group
"It also illustrates a favourite Warbughian theme, that of the transmission and transformation of cultural traditions Culture and Society Interest in the relation between culture and society apparent in the US & England before the arrival of the émigrés ex. The Beards; Central European scholars spelled out this relationship more poignantly
Marxist group of intellectuals - Karl Mannheim 'sociology of knowledge', Georg Lukacs 'realism' vs. 'modernity', Frederick Antal 'culture as reflection of society'; Arnold Hauser 'culture connected to economic and social conflict' (16-17) Discovery of the People German "Volkskultur" Victorian folk antiquarians? (prehistory)
American "Popular Culture" --- role of popular culture in cultural formation
Francis Newton 'Eric Hobsbaum' - The Jazz Age (1959)
Edward Thompson 'The Making of the English Working Class (1963)

---> 'History Workshop' Raphael Samuel "cultural history from below"
Why did the history of popular culture emerge in the 1960s?
Internal: Ordinary people were being left out of histories; outside the academy;
External: Rise of 'Cultural Studies' Stuart Hall - high culture vs. low culture Chapter 2 - Problems of Cultural History Problems with the Classics Approach Treating texts and images of a certain period as unproblematic mirrors of their times
Burckhardt and Huizinga criticized as anecdotal and impressionistic ---> solution? 'Serial History'- École des Annales; Content Analysis; Critical Discourse Analysis; New Historicism
Foundationalism - 'Zeigeist' supposes too much homogeneity in the cultural tropes of an age; Marxist Debates Marxist approaches to cultural history criticize the lack of awareness of economic and social bases of the study of culture
Overestimating cultural homogeneity: "culture is a 'clumpish term' lumping things together, hiding distinctions, and tending to 'nudge us towards over-consensual and holistic notions' " (23-4)
'time zones' distinction Problems of Marxist
Cultural History Culture as 'superstructure' -base and superstructure too rigid cf. Williams
Economism vs. culturalism
Thompson 'cultural hegemony'
Why lose the 'base' and 'superstructure'?
---> treating learned and popular cultures as subcultures Paradoxes of Tradition "Apparent innovation may mask the persistence of tradition"


"[T]he outward signs of tradition may mask innovation" (26) Problems of Popular Culture Is it just another trap of cultural homogeneity? Who are 'the people'? --> popular cultures
Are cultures, in the plural distinct, separated? --> think in terms of more or less autonomous and bounded 'subcultures'
Should the elites be included or excluded? --> don't make the binary opposition too rigid; wider framework 'vague concept'
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