The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1094  Wednesday, 30 June 1999.

From:           Sean Lawrence <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Tuesday, 29 Jun 1999 16:06:58 +0000
Subject: 10.1081 Re: Buggering and Biggering
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1081 Re: Buggering and Biggering

Gabriel Egan writes:

> I'm sorry to appear dense on this, but really this highly mutable term
> 'culture' is throwing me off. If 'culture' is the good stuff, and it is
> the ethnically-shared collection of good and bad stuff, aren't we just
> playing humpty-dumpty with the word?
> >Sean: your response didn't clear this one up either. Do you
> >see no problem here? (If none, I will desist.)

I think that there is a problem, in that "culture" can mean two things,
which are related, but not quite the same.  Interestingly, the issue
seems to go back to the early modern period.  Bullokar, Cawdrey and
Cockeram concur in defining culture as "tillage", while Thomas Thomas
defines "Horridus" as "Hideous, terrible, dreadful, vnpleasant: he that
quaketh for cold or feare, stiffe for cold: rough, curled, rude, barren,
slender: out of culture, nothing clenly, handsome, or trimme: lothsome
to behold."  (Thank you, Ian Lancashire and the rest of the EMEDD
team).  While "culture" could indicate a bare modicum of agricultural
skill to the seventeenth century, it also carried implications of
cultivation and civility.

In any case, I think that a relationship between the two meanings of
"culture"-as the sum total of the way of life of a society and as its
highest artistic products ("high culture")--is discernible, if not
always clear.  Canadian culture, for instance, consists just as much in
things like watching hockey and listening to Stompin' Tom, as it does in
watching "On the Arts" or reading Mordecai Richler.  However, when
studying a society from abroad, or from a distance of time, we tend to
place a higher premium on artistic works than on sports or "material
culture".  While both "high" culture and "popular" culture are valid
expressions of a society, "high" cultural products are usually taken to
be representative.

Julia Kristeva recently wrote an article for LeMonde about Serbia, for
instance, in which she explains Serbian society by reference to Orthodox
trinitarianism.  Why pick something so seemingly obscure?  Why not talk
about more common and material things, like the fact that lots of
Serbians eat particular foods, or play football?  The reason is, simply,
that "high" culture, despite its stigmatization as esoteric, is
considered a more important, more central measure of a society's beliefs
and values than the "popular" culture which might not even differentiate
it from any other society.

By the way, I think Harry's use of the term "buggered" may be a bit
tacky, but I wouldn't put as much emphasis on it as you have.  If decon
means anything, it's that no-one can be exhaustively responsible for any
possible meanings that their words can generate, especially as they
shift along the chain of imbrication.  I'm pretty sure that Harry isn't
advocating the rape of young boys.  The term "buggered" has come to
assume wider meanings, and it seems odd for a reader of Derrida to
insist on dragging it back to its original context and meaning.

And thanks for your reference to Steve Sohmer's book, on another
thread.  As it happened, I'd just received a copy before your e-mail
arrived, so I was able to check the reference immediately!

All the best,

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