German Cultural Studies: An Introduction

German Cultural Studies: An Introduction

German Cultural Studies: An Introduction

German Cultural Studies: An Introduction

Synopsis

Major changes have been taking place in the context of German Studies in both secondary and higher education, with the focus shifting to a broader range of cultural forms. Based on the view that cultures are the products of class, place, gender, and race, German Cultural Studies takes account of these changes and adopts an interdisciplinary approach in its wide-ranging study of German culture and society since 1871. Emphasizing recent and contemporary developments, the book features chronological sections on Imperial Germany, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the German Democratic Republic, and the Federal Republic. The contributors chart the growth of modernization and the culture industry in Germany, and examine the extent to which culture in any given period functions as an instrument of ideological manipulation or critical enlightenment. Throughout, the emphasis is on the interactions of culture, society and ideology, and the role of culture in both public and private consciousnesses. Copiously illustrated, and with a comprehensive bibliography, the volume will be essential reading for anyone interested in modern and contemporary German society and its culture.

Excerpt

When some people hear the word 'culture'--as with Friedrich Thiemann in Hanns Johst play Schlageter (1933) or in the more notorious but apocryphal case of Hermann Göring--they reach for their revolver. In the light of the recent proliferation of publications, media debates, and academic courses concerned with cultural studies, others may be more inclined to reach for their dictionary. Of the many meanings of culture listed there, two are of relevance: the aesthetic and the anthropological. In Britain cultural studies originated with the attempts by Richard Hoggart and, above all, Raymond Williams to shift the critical focus from the one meaning of the term to the other: from the traditional, narrow view of culture as coterminous with the arts to the broad, anthropological and extended sociological use of the word to indicate a 'whole way of life', the entire mental and material habitat of a distinct people or other social group. As Williams pointed out, the latter sense of culture has the considerable merit of highlighting a general system. In contrast with analytical perspectives that compartmentalize life in its various aspects (the economic, the political, the spiritual, and so on) the notion of culture as a 'whole way of life' evokes 'a specific and organized system of acted and activated practices, meanings, and values'. Williams applied this approach in the two texts commonly seen as marking the inception of cultural studies in Britain, namely Culture and Society (1958) and The Long Revolution (1961). Here he challenged the then dominant paradigm of literary studies as epitomized by the work of F. R. Leavis, for whom culture was to be equated exclusively with 'high culture'. While the latter continued to be of interest to Williams, his overriding concern was to explore the relations between works of art and popular culture. Since culture was to be understood as the 'whole way of life' of a particular society, the cultural consumption and self-expression of the working class was deemed to be as . . .

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