- The first meaning tends to be one who wants to preserve a national culture, its language and beliefs and arts, against imported foreign culture. This isn't me. Oh, I will mark down any student who abuses the English language in their papers. But, as any artist will tell you, culture has always borrowed across borders and always will. Art is universal, and when it attempts to be narrowly national, it becomes kitsch. The same is true of philosophy, religion and all other aspects of the human-made world. So, let other people defend American culture or Western culture against other forms of high culture. I will defend culture. Period.
- Secondly, a cultural conservative can be someone who wants to protect the entire culture from gays and strippers and divorce, or whatever. This isn't me either. Not only because I think a world without gays and strippers is like a day without sunshine, but also because the canon was created by plenty of gays and perverts and is a lot more perverse than the whitewashed version would have it. Read Sexual Personae some time. Well, or just read The Taming of the Shrew with a dirty mind. It's there, believe me. Trying to limit art and culture to only the 'pure' stuff limits the imagination itself, which is the death of culture.
- The third meaning of cultural conservative is one who wants to preserve what they consider to be high culture, and to do so, recognizes that it must be defended as more worthy of preservation than low culture. This is an 'elitist' position to take, and more than a little at odds with mass democracy. It's an aristocratic value, as Nietzsche understood. This is me, the elitist.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
The hardest part of teaching in the humanities is that doing so drafts you into the culture wars. Whether you'd like to be a conscientious objector or not, you're enlisted to fight because everything you do is intrinsically combative. And what I think a lot of humanities people are in serious denial about is the fact that we are, by our calling, 'cultural conservatives'. Now, of course, this is a controversial thing to say in some regards. So, let me explain what I mean by 'cultural conservative', a word that has at least three different meanings.
Posted by Rufus at 12:34 PM