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Cultural critic

Cultural critic

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A cultural critic is a critic
Critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

 of a given culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, usually as a whole and typically on a radical basis. There is significant overlap with social
Social theory
Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

 and cultural theory.

Terminology


Contemporary usage has tended to include all types of criticism
Criticism
Criticism is the judgement of the merits and faults of the work or actions of an individual or group by another . To criticize does not necessarily imply to find fault, but the word is often taken to mean the simple expression of an objection against prejudice, or a disapproval.Another meaning of...

 directed at culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

.

The term cultural criticism itself has been claimed by Jacques Barzun
Jacques Barzun
Jacques Martin Barzun is a French-born American historian of ideas and culture. He has written on a wide range of topics, but is perhaps best known as a philosopher of education, his Teacher in America being a strong influence on post-WWII training of schoolteachers in the United...

: No such thing was recognized or in favour when we [i.e. Barzun and Trilling] began — more by intuition than design — in the autumn of 1934. In contrast, a work such as Richard Wolin
Richard Wolin
Richard Wolin is an intellectual historian.He is Distinguished Professor of History at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he has worked since 2000...

's 1995 The Terms of Cultural Criticism: The Frankfurt School, Existentialism, Poststructuralism (1995) uses it as a broad-brush description.

Victorian sages as critics


Cultural critics came to the scene in the nineteenth century. Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

 and Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 are leading examples of a cultural critic of the Victorian age; in Arnold there is also a concern for religion. John Ruskin
John Ruskin
John Ruskin was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, also an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects ranging from geology to architecture, myth to ornithology, literature to education, and botany to political...

 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 France, Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire was a French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the nineteenth century...

 was a cultural critic, as was Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Kierkegaard
Søren Aabye Kierkegaard was a Danish Christian philosopher, theologian and religious author. He was a critic of idealist intellectuals and philosophers of his time, such as Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling and Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel...

 in Denmark and Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

 in Germany.

Twentieth century



In the twentieth century Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt
Irving Babbitt was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930...

 on the right, and Walter Benjamin
Walter Benjamin
Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

 on the left, might be considered major cultural critics. The field of play has changed considerably, in that the humanities
Humanities
The humanities are academic disciplines that study the human condition, using methods that are primarily analytical, critical, or speculative, as distinguished from the mainly empirical approaches of the natural sciences....

 have broadened to include cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

 of all kinds, which are grounded in critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

.

Examples of contemporary usage

  • Allan Bloom
    Allan Bloom
    Allan David Bloom was an American philosopher, classicist, and academic. He studied under David Grene, Leo Strauss, Richard McKeon and Alexandre Kojève. He subsequently taught at Cornell University, the University of Toronto, Yale University, École Normale Supérieure of Paris, and the University...

  • Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
    Henry Louis “Skip” Gates, Jr., is an American literary critic, educator, scholar, writer, editor, and public intellectual. He was the first African American to receive the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellowship. He has received numerous honorary degrees and awards for his teaching, research, and...

  • Roger Kimball
    Roger Kimball
    Roger Kimball is a conservative U.S. art critic and social commentator. He was educated at Cheverus High School, a Jesuit institution in South Portland, Maine, and then at Bennington College, where he took a BA in philosophy and classical Greek, and Yale University...

  • Mark Kingwell
    Mark Kingwell
    Mark Gerald Kingwell, M.Litt, M.Phil, PhD, D.F.A. is a Canadian professor of philosophy and associate chair at the University of Toronto's Department of Philosophy. Kingwell is a fellow of Trinity College...

  • Daniel Quinn
    Daniel Quinn
    Daniel Quinn is an American writer described as an environmentalist. He is best known for his book Ishmael , which won the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award in 1991....


See also

  • Anti-capitalism
    Anti-capitalism
    Anti-capitalism describes a wide variety of movements, ideas, and attitudes which oppose capitalism. Anti-capitalists, in the strict sense of the word, are those who wish to completely replace capitalism with another system....

  • Arts & Letters Daily
    Arts & Letters Daily
    Arts & Letters Daily is a web portal owned by The Chronicle of Higher Education. It features links to a diverse array of news stories, features and reviews from throughout the online Anglosphere, each introduced with a short blurb or teaser...

  • Critical theory
    Critical theory
    Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

  • Cultural pessimism
    Cultural pessimism
    Cultural pessimism is a variety of pessimism, as formulated by what is nowadays called a cultural critic.-Contemporary proponents:Towards the end of the 20th century, cultural pessimism surfaced in a prominent way. The very title of Jacques Barzun's From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western...

  • Culture theory
    Culture theory
    Culture theory is the branch of anthropology and semiotics that seeks to define the heuristic concept of culture in operational and/or scientific terms....

  • The New Criterion
    The New Criterion
    The New Criterion is a New York-based monthly literary magazine and journal of artistic and cultural criticism, edited by Hilton Kramer and Roger Kimball. It has sections for criticism of poetry, theater, art, music, the media, and books...

  • Social science
  • Social theory
    Social theory
    Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

  • Sociology
    Sociology
    Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...


External links