The Domestication of Culture
A. L. Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn, Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and
Definitions(New York: Vintage, 1952), 3.
See Raymond Williams, Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (London: Croom Helm, 1973).
The most influential treatment of this earlier history of “culture” in the British
context is Williams, Culture and Society: 1780–1950(1958; reprint, New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); see also Kroeber and Kluckhohn, Culture.
Christopher Herbert's important work on the Victorian context of the culture concept supports my point about the significanceof this period for the development of the
discourse of “culture.” Though Herbert's study focuses on authors and issues of this
other, earlier, context, he nevertheless views figures central to my study—especially
Ruth Benedict, whom he describes as “possibly the most influential of all writers in
crystallizing the discourse of culture”—as expressing the concept of culture in its most
complete form. In other words, his study to some degree locates traces of their “culture”
in its Victorian antecedents. Christopher Herbert, Culture and Anomie: Ethnographic
Imagination in the Nineteenth Century (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991),
Warren I. Susman, “The Culture of the Thirties,” in Culture as History: The Transformation of American Society in the Twentieth Century (New York: Pantheon, 1984),
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The Progress of Culture,” in The Complete Works of
Ralph Waldo Emerson (New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1917), 8:205–34.
Lewis Mumford, The Golden Day: A Study in American Experience and Culture
(New York: Boni and Liveright, 1926), 3. Historians Charles and Mary Beard showed
that “civilization” also comprised an important keyword of this same moment, particularly in the early years of the twentieth century, and in those surrounding World War
II. The Beards's usage of “civilization” both overlaps and differs from typical conceptions of “culture” in the period, at times suggesting something more technological or
more teleological than “culture,” at times meaning something only perhaps a little
grander than “culture.” Some of this complexity is reflected in their statement in the
preface of The American Spirit: “Out of our studies extending over many years we have
reached the conviction that no idea, such as democracy, liberty, or the American way
of life, expresses the American spirit so coherently, comprehensively, and systematically as does the idea of civilization.” Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard, The American Spirit (1942; reprint, New York: Collier, 1971), 7, 19–93. See also their popularly
influential history, The Rise of American Civilization (New York: Macmillan, 1930).
Randolph Bourne, “A Mirror of the Middle West,” in The Radical Will: Selected
Writings 1911–1918, ed. Olaf Hansen (New York: Urizen, 1977), 265.
Kroeber and Kluckhohn, Culture, 19–30.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Book title: Patterns for America:Modernism and the Concept of Culture.
Contributors: Susan Hegeman - Author.
Publisher: Princeton University Press.
Place of publication: Princeton, NJ.
Publication year: 1999.
Page number: 215.
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