Download Cultural Semantics: Keywords of Our Time by Martin Jay PDF

By Martin Jay

During this account of a few of the principal techniques in sleek lifestyles and notion, Professor Jay investigates how language can't fail to alter and mediate event. the themes he treats variety from "theory" and "experience" to the which means of "multiculturalism" and the dynamic of "cultural subversion", and one of the thinkers he engages are Bataille, Foucault, Adorno, Walter Benjamin and Lyotard.

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Example text

In fact, one way to tell if Alltagsgeschichte has the normalizing and apologetic function its detractors claim it has is precisely to ask how the word is used. The normalizers would be those who uncritically assume the existence of a genuinely meaningful Erfahrung during the Nazi era, which can then be recovered by the historian willing to empathize with the "little man" beneath the regime's elite.

Each, I think it can be easily shown, is itself a semantically unstable and historically variable term that gains its intelligibility only in relation to the constellation of terms that surround, invade, and oppose it. There is no time to spell this out now in any detail, but I do want to pause for a moment to consider one familiar example, which concerns the central object of theoretical inquiry in the humanities, the so-called work of art. Arguments against the imposition of allegedly external theoretical notions of the aesthetic on allegedly self-contained works of art are belied as soon as we recognize that the discourse of the aesthetic is at least in part constitutive of the works themselves, which are more than the expression of creative genius.

31 Often they have been seen as mutually supportive, one illuminating and verifying the other, but sometimes, the primacy of practice over theory, along with the superiority < previous page page_22 next page > < previous page page_23 next page > Page 23 of activists over theoreticians, has been strongly defended. No one who passed through the politically charged 1960s and early 1970s, when even the most theoretically self-conscious intellectuals still agonized over how engagé they were, will forget the incessant questions from the floor after every lecture demanding to know how such esoteric and abstract ideas, expressed in the jargon of an intellectual elite, could be translated into immediate emancipatory practice.

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