Academic journal article CineAction

Editorial (Cultural Past)

Academic journal article CineAction

Editorial (Cultural Past)

Article excerpt

The question of our cultural past--how we relate to it, what uses we can legitimately make of it--has been for me a steady (and steadily growing) preoccupation. I speak as a white Eurocentric male who is committed to the ideal of multiculturalism but also continues to value his own inheritance in a culture in which people of different races, colours, religions, backgrounds, can learn to coexist not just peacefully but to their mutual enrichment. For whites of my generation the `cultural past' was a very different matter, and for many of us it retains its potency and its relevance. Born and raised within a British middle-class environment in the `30s, I would certainly never have escaped its suffocating confines but for my discovery of books, music, films: particularly British books, European music, Hollywood films. These opened up imaginative and emotional worlds quite foreign to my immediate circumstances, and they were overwhelmingly the productions of white Eurocentric males (plus a few female novelists). Today there seems to be a widespread assumption that the works of `dead white males' are automatically discredited: after all, Shakespeare, Mozart, Tolstoy, John Ford knew nothing of post-'60s feminism, the Third World, African-American culture, or `political correctness', so what can they possibly have to say to us?

It is surely of vital importance that any culture, if it to thrive, should at once honour, preserve, and continuously interrogate its traditions, neither rejecting nor blindly following them. As the culture changes, so do the meanings of its past products: we find new significances, new ways of using them, as well as aspects that we must discard or distance ourselves from.

The living art of the past points always toward the future; the struggle of `Life Against Death' so brilliantly defined by Norman O. …

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