Culture and the Real

Culture and the Real

Culture and the Real

Culture and the Real

Synopsis

What makes us the people we are? Culture evidently plays a part, but how large a part? Is culture alone the source of our identities? Some have argued that human nature is the foundation of culture, others that culture is the foundation of human identity. Catherine Belsey now calls for a more nuanced, relational account of what it is to be human, and in doing so puts forward a significant new theory of culture. Culture and the Real explains with Professor Belsey's characteristic lucidity the views of recent theorists, including Jean-Fran¿¿ois Lyotard, Judith Butler and Slavoj Zizek, as well as their debt to the earlier work of Kant and Hegel, in order to take issue with their accounts of what it is to be human. To explore the human, she demonstrates, is to acknowledge the relationship between culture and what we don't know: not the familiar world picture presented to us by culture as 'reality', but the unsayable, or the strange region that lies beyond culture, which Lacan has called 'the real'. Culture, she argues, registers a sense of its own limits in ways more subtle than the theorists allow.This volume builds on the insights of Belsey's influential Critical Practice to provide not only an accessible introduction to contemporary theories of what it is to be human, but a major new contribution to current debates about culture. Taking examples from film and art, fiction and poetry, Culture and the Real is essential reading for those studying or working in cultural criticism, within the fields of English, Cultural Studies, Film Studies and Art History.

Excerpt

No doubt a third General Editor's Preface to New Accents seems hard to justify. What is there left to say? Twenty-five years ago, the series began with a very clear purpose. Its major concern was the newly perplexed world of academic literary studies, where hectic monsters called 'Theory', 'Linguistics' and 'Politics' ranged. in particular, it aimed itself at those undergraduates or beginning postgraduate students who were either learning to come to terms with the new developments or were being sternly warned against them.

New Accents deliberately took sides. Thus the first Preface spoke darkly, in 1977, of 'a time of rapid and radical social change', of the 'erosion of the assumptions and presuppositions' central to the study of literature. 'Modes and categories inherited from the past', it announced, 'no longer seem to fit the reality experienced by a new generation'. the aim of each volume would be to 'encourage rather than resist the process of change' by combining nuts-and-bolts exposition of new ideas with clear and detailed explanation of related conceptual developments. If mystification (or downright demonization) was the enemy, lucidity (with a nod to the compromises inevitably at stake there) became a friend. If a 'distinctive discourse of the future' beckoned, we wanted at least to be able to understand it.

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