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The New Cultural History

The New Cultural History

Copyright Date: 1989
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    The New Cultural History
    Book Description:

    Across the humanities and the social sciences, disciplinary boundaries have come into question as scholars have acknowledged their common preoccupations with cultural phenomena ranging from rituals and ceremonies to texts and discourse. Literary critics, for example, have turned to history for a deepening of their notion of cultural products; some of them now read historical documents in the same way that they previously read "great" texts. Anthropologists have turned to the history of their own discipline in order to better understand the ways in which disciplinary authority was constructed. As historians have begun to participate in this ferment, they have moved away from their earlier focus on social theoretical models of historical development toward concepts taken from cultural anthropology and literary criticism. Much of the most exciting work in history recently has been affiliated with this wide-ranging effort to write history that is essentially a history of culture. The essays presented here provide an introduction to this movement within the discipline of history. The essays in Part One trace the influence of important models for the new cultural history, models ranging from the pathbreaking work of the French cultural critic Michel Foucault and the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz to the imaginative efforts of such contemporary historians as Natalie Davis and E. P. Thompson, as well as the more controversial theories of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra. The essays in Part Two are exemplary of the most challenging and fruitful new work of historians in this genre, with topics as diverse as parades in 19th-century America, 16th-century Spanish texts, English medical writing, and the visual practices implied in Italian Renaissance frescoes. Beneath this diversity, however, it is possible to see the commonalities of the new cultural history as it takes shape. Students, teachers, and general readers interested in the future of history will find these essays stimulating and provocative.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-90892-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: History, Culture, and Text
    (pp. 1-22)

    In 1961, E. H. Carr announced that “the more sociological history becomes, and the more historical sociology becomes, the better for both.”¹ At the time, the pronouncement was a battle cry directed primarily at Carr’s fellow historians—especially those of the English variety—whom Carr hoped to drag along, however unwillingly, into the new age of a socially oriented history. In retrospect, it seems that Carr was quite right: the cutting edge for both fields was the social-historical. Historical sociology has become one of the most important subfields of sociology, and perhaps the fastest growing; meanwhile, social history has overtaken...

  5. Part One: Models for Cultural History

    • One Michel Foucault’s History of Culture
      (pp. 25-46)

      In 1961, Michel Foucault published his first major work, a history of madness from the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries.Histoire de la foliestood outside the paradigms of the new social history. Neither Marxist nor Annaliste, Foucault’s work in the intervening quarter century has been alternately praised and attacked by historians—and most often, in both cases, misunderstood. The body of Foucault’s writing has seldom been recognized for what it is: an alternative model for writing the history of culture, a model that embodies a fundamental critique of Marxist and Annaliste analysis, of social history itself.

      In the decade...

    • Two Crowds, Community, and Ritual in the Work of E. P. Thompson and Natalie Davis
      (pp. 47-71)

      In the early 19705, social historians struggled to expand their investigations beyond the demographic and socioeconomic analysis of lower-class life to explore popular cultural perceptions as well. Seeking to give voice and life to the peasants, workers, and artisans they studied, historians enriched their quantitative portrait by the study ofmentalités. Two historians, E. P, Thompson and Natalie Davis, were extremely influential in providing the cultural analysis of popular behavior and attitudes with direction, validity, and method. Their work on crowd violence in particular became integral to the definition and formation of a new cultural approach to social history.


    • Three Local Knowledge, Local History: Geertz and Beyond
      (pp. 72-96)

      Genres are “blurring,” Clifford Geertz has said.¹ For every historian who cites Braudel’s summons tola science sociale, there is an anthropologist reminding us of Maitland’s well-known dictum: that anthropology will be history or it will be nothing at all. Historians regularly acknowledge the influence of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Victor Turner, Mary Douglas, and, in particular, Clifford Geertz. And now, at the very moment when the “Annales paradigm” is most controversial,² Marshall Sahlins, a highly visible anthropologist, chooses to employ Braudel’s termlongue duréeto mean Lévi-Strauss’s “structure.” For Sahlins, as will be shown, the “long run” of Hawaiian history consists...

    • Four Literature, Criticism, and Historical Imagination: The Literary Challenge of Hayden White and Dominick LaCapra
      (pp. 97-128)

      Historical writing in the twentieth century has evolved through institutional and intellectual patterns that have produced a perennial historiographical tension. The dominant institutional pattern has been the tendency of historians to define themselves along the increasingly precise lines of academic departments, limited specializations, and disciplinary boundaries. At the same time, however, much of the intellectual innovation among modern historians has resulted from their willingness to draw on other academic disciplines for theoretical and methodological insights, which has led to an expansion and redefinition of the political orientation of traditional historiography. The search for new approaches to the past has led...

  6. Part Two: New Approaches

    • Five The American Parade: Representations of the Nineteenth-Century Social Order
      (pp. 131-153)

      TheSan Francisco Morning Callbegan its report on the July Fourth celebration of 1864 with this perfunctory comment: “The chief feature of the day was the great Procession of course.” By mid morning, the editor went on, “the streets began to be thronged with platoons, companies and regiments of soldiers, benevolent associations etc., swarming from every point of the compass and marching with music and banners toward the general rendezvous like the gathering hosts of a mighty army.” An hour later these contingents of citizens had formed into a linear sequence and proceeded to file through the principal streets...

    • Six Texts, Printing, Readings
      (pp. 154-175)

      In the prologue to hisCelestina, published in Saragossa in 1507, Fernando de Rojas asked himself why the work had been understood, appreciated, and used in so many different ways since its first appearance in 1499 at Burgos.¹ The question is simple: how can a text that is the same for everyone who reads it become an “instrument of discord and battle between its readers, creating divergences between them, with each reader having an opinion depending on his own taste?” (instrumento de lid o contienda a sus lectores para ponerlos en diferencias, dando cada una sentencia sobre ella a sabor...

    • Seven Bodies, Details, and the Humanitarian Narrative
      (pp. 176-204)

      This essay asks how details about the suffering bodies of others engender compassion and how that compassion comes to be understood as a moral imperative to undertake ameliorative action. It is about the origins of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century humanitarianism.

      Beginning in the eighteenth century, a new cluster of narratives came to speak in extraordinarily detailed fashion about the pains and deaths of ordinary people in such a way as to make apparent the causal chains that might connect the actions of its readers with the suffering of its subjects. This aesthetic enterprise, various forms of which I will consider under...

    • Eight Seeing Culture in a Room for a Renaissance Prince
      (pp. 205-232)

      Over the past few years I have been looking with an art historian at pictures in the surviving council halls and audience rooms of medieval and Renaissance Italy. These rooms of state and their decorations are sites where art—especially painting—and politics were programmatically conjoined in three different centuries under three different regimes: civic republics in the fourteenth century, princely courts in the fifteenth, and “triumphalist” states in the sixteenth. In looking at the pictures, I am especially interested in seeing how regimes of power correspond to regimes of symbolic practice or, more precisely, how different artistic styles and...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 233-234)
  8. Index
    (pp. 235-244)