historicist

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Types of Literary Criticism

NEW CRITICISM, or: “READ THE FUCKING TEXT”


  • Also known as ‘practical criticism’.
  • This theory was dominant in the US and UK between the 30s and 70s. 
  • A formalist, decontextualised approach to literature where the text is examined independently of other influences.
  • Explores the essential elements of language, imagery, symbolism, figures of speech, ambiguity, irony, paradox.
  • Pretty huge span of approaches - for example, within Shakespearean new criticism you had A.C. Bradley’s character-based critique, Harley Granville-Barker’s study of stagecraft, G. Wilson Knight’s exploration of image and theme, and L.C. Knights’ suggestion that Bradley is a douche and Shakespeare was a poet, not a dramatist. (Yeah, fuck you, Knights.)


HISTORICIST CRITICISM, or: “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT, DUH”

  • Funnily enough, this approach believes that historical context influences interpretation.
  • Stuff like: religion, political idealism of the time, cultural shifts, social attitudes, war, colonialism (although that’s a whole other bag of cats, see below), pop culture references and in-jokes, and anything that might have influenced the text during the era in which it was written.
  • Within historicist criticism there should be a distinction between text and context; history is the background that the text passively reflects.
  • Buuuut often this approach reveals more about the critic’s political/social/personal values than the period they are studying. Natch. 


LIBERAL HUMANISM, or: “STORIES ARE JUST A REFLECTION OF THE AUTHOR, DUDE”

  • Popular at the beginning of the 1900s - literature and art are timeless, revealing a universal truth about humanity.
  • Like, writers are totally free agents whose intentions shape the meaning of their writing, man. 
  • Like, human consciousness shapes language, culture and society, NOT the other way around.


MARXISM, or “WE’RE ALL SLAVES TO THE ECONOMY” 

  • A criticial theory systemised in the 20s, based on the materialist philosophy of Karl Marx (1818-83) and Friedrich Engels (1820-95) whereby the material circumstances of life are determining factors in the individual’s experience.
  • So, like, the economic organisation of society shapes culture, politics, philosophy, religion, education, law and art.
  • So, like, fuck liberal humanism; people are shaped by their environment, NOT the other way around. Authors and their works are basically products of society. 
  • These guys believe that art reflects changing economic conditions and class values. There’s a little cross-over with historicist criticism in the approach that literature should be interpreted within the context of the period and its political inflections - often with a focus on the lower classes.
  • Get yourself familiar with the Marxist concept of ‘ideology’ - a function which ‘naturalises’ the inequalities of power through a complex structure of social perceptions which renders class division invisible. 
  • Yeah. It’s heavy, dude.


STRUCTURALISM, or: “LANGUAGE IS EVERYTHIIIING!”

  • Based on the linguistic theory of Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913)
  • The belief that language shapes humanity, culture, communication, and the way we perceive the world. Yay, go language.
  • Structuralism was a radical theory during the second half of the 20th Century whose central argument opposed liberal humanist ideas (Recap: lib-humans reckoned that human consciousness creates language and culture - structuralists reckoned the complete opposite. At this point everyone is basically being completely contrary for the sake of it.)


POST STRUCTURALISM, or “WE’RE SORT OF ON THE FENCE ABOUT LANGUAGE SO JUST GO WITH IT”

  • A critical theory prominent in France in the 1960s, primarily associated with philosopher Jacques Derrida and critic Roland Barthes - a reaction against structuralism as well as a development of it. <sigh>
  • Ok, so this language thing? How about we agree that reality is constituted through language BUT language itself is unstable and beyond our control. Like, language is an unreliable narrator, yeah? Yeahhh.
  • Essentially, it’s language that speaks, not the author. So let’s call it THE DEATH OF THE AUTHOR because we are needlessly dramatic. 
  • So, like, literary texts don’t present a single or unified view and the author cannot claim authority on interpretation. (The curtains are blue…)
  • You can trace a whole thread of critical development here from formalist criticism to structuralism to post-structuralism and later to deconstruction - all of which are concerned with the ambiguity and contradictions within text and language. To make it even more confusing, new historicism (see below) can also be seen as post-structuralist since it places stress on a text’s connection to culture rather than relying on the autonomy of the text itself.
  • Time for a stiff drink.


NEW HISTORICISM, or “IT’S THE CIIIIRCLE OF LIIIIIIFE - ART AND HISTORY ARE STUCK IN AN INFINITY LOOP” 

  • A term coined by Stephen Greenblatt (Shakespeare-critic-extraordinaire) in the 80s - a reaction against old historicism (where text is a reflection of historical background) and a move away from Marxist and post-structural theories.
  • New historicism asserts that the text is an active participant in historical development.
  • So, like, art and literature help to create the cultural values of the period in which they are produced. BUT, we are also formed and tied to cultural ideologies, so it ain’t all about the text. 
  • Involves close reading of the text, taking into account political ideology, social practice, religion, class division and conflict within society.
  • A pessimistic take on Foucault: the belief that we are ‘remarkably unfree’ of the influence of society and socio-political power operates through the language of major institutions to determine what’s normal and demonise ‘otherness’.
  • Seriously. Fuck society. 


CULTURAL MATERIALISM, or “WE NEED A BRITISH VERSION OF NEW HISTORICISM”

  • We can’t let the Americans monopolise this kind of criticism.
  • Goddamn Greenblatt.
  • So consider this: how much freedom of thought do we actually have? Does culture shape our identities or can we think independently of dominant ideologies? Huh? Huh? Are we saying anything new yet? 
  • Basically, a historicist approach to political criticism with a revised conception of the connection between literature and culture. 
  • Culture is a complex, unstable and dynamic creature which offers an opportunity for the radical subversion of power and society.
  • Unlike historicism or Marxism, cultural materialists believe the author is able to achieve a degree of independence from prevailing structures of power and discourse. 
  • Often demonstrates optimism for political change - once again, critical theory reflects the critic’s personal opinions and hopes for change in present day society. Literary criticism can change the world, man.
  • Some crossover into feminist/queer/post-colonial theory, because FUCK ALL THOSE OLD WHITE GUYS.


FEMINIST THEORY, or: “LET’S RECONSIDER 100 YEARS OF CRITICISM FROM A PERSPECTIVE THAT ISN’T CIS/MALE”

  • Following the women’s movement of the 1960s, feminist theory was established in the 70s and 80s and founded on texts Le Deuxieme Sex by Simone de Beauvoir and Sexual Politics by Kate Millett.
  • Explicitly political – similarities to new historicism and cultural materialism - challenging the subordinate position of women in society and deconstructing/contesting the concept of essentialism, whereby men and women have intrinsically separate qualities and natures. 
  • Often seen as an attack on the Western literary canon and the exclusion of female writers throughout history. Focuses on female characters and authors, exploring the influence and restrictions of patriarchy, and constructions of gender, femininity and sexuality (both in text and culture).
  • Feminists influenced by post-structuralism tend to disregard the positive discrimination of women writers, claiming “it is language that speaks, not the author.”
  • Feminism and psychoanalytical theories (esp Freud and Lacan) contributed to the erosion of liberal humanist ideas, redefining human nature and the concept of child development, and exploring the psychology of patriarchy and male-dominated culture. 


GAY/LESBIAN CRITICISM AND QUEER THEORY, or: “LET’S RECONSIDER 100 YEARS OF CRITICISM FROM A PERSPECTIVE THAT ISN’T CIS/MALE/STRAIGHT”

  • During the 80s, queer theory was influenced by post-structuralist ideas of identity as being fluid and unstable, and investigates the role of sexual orientation within literary criticism from a social and political viewpoint.
  • An opposition to homophobia and the privilege of heterosexual culture and an exploration of themes that have been suppressed by conservative critical theory.
  • A look at LGBQTA, non-binary characters and authors and their influence within a historical, political, religious and social context.
  • The end of ‘gal-pals’ and ‘no-homo’, fuckboys.


POST COLONIAL THEORY, or: “LET’S RECONSIDER 100 YEARS OF CRITICAL THEORY FROM A PERSPECTIVE THAT ISN’T WHITE”

  • A critique on the English canon and colonial rule with a focus on canonical texts written during periods of colonisation.
  • An exploration of cultural displacement/appropriation and the language and cultural values thrust upon/developed by colonised people.
  • Post-colonial theory gives voices to colonial ‘subjects’ and looks at the impact on individual and collective identity, as well as the complexity of colonial relationships and interaction.
  • Gonna have a lot to do with politics, history, social ideology, religion and international/race relations, obvs. Stay woke.

dolorem--ipsum  asked:

Hello, I'm currently designing a project and I'm having trouble responding to the context- the site essentially completes a block of historicist buildings, largely neoclassical and neorenaissance, and I'm not sure how my building should reflect or contrast them. Do you have any examples of contemporary architecture which you think respond really well to historical context in an urban setting?

Below are some recent examples of projects built in a historic context that in my opinion, don’t pander to the style found around the site, but respond respectfully to their surroundings, without sacrificing good design:

Murcia Town Hall Rafael Moneo

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  • Fuck You Tony: a Memoir by Clint Barton and Natasha Romanoff.
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anonymous asked:

I have a question, actual english major lise: what are your FAVORITE ways to analyze a text??? Enlighten a curious possible english major~ :)

ooooh I like this question. 

  • New Historicism is the school that looks at cultural context and history surrounding a work, intertwining texts into cultural or intellectual history. So for instance, looking at the ways in which Tolkien’s experience in World War I informs his work, or how The Lord of the Rings can be positioned within the modernist movement of literature, are both new historicist modes of inquiry.
  • Deconstructionism/Post-structuralism: Post-structuralism is the umbrella under which deconstructionism falls, and both of these are basically reactions to structuralism about how binaries are fake!!! everything is uncertain!!! As Wikipedia says, deconstructionism argues that “the object of language and that which any text is founded upon is irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible.” MY BOY JACQUES DERRIDA. 
  • Gender: I mean, I wrote roughly fifty percent of my essays in college on the work being done with gender in various texts, which is basically what this school is all about.
  • Post-colonialism: This is another obvious one, but it’s where things like “Can the Subaltern Speak?” (a borderline unreadable essay that basically boils down to: “is there any way for the Other to speak within the linguistic confines of the dominant culture”) come from, and there’s a lot of really interesting writing about the impact of colonial and post-colonial history on writing, and the ways in which a variety of writers both “marginal” and “center” have responded over time.
  • Reader-response criticism: This is one I’ve read less of but really like conceptually. It’s the only theoretical school that purposefully takes the reader’s active response to a text into account and discusses the reader’s role in creating or maintaining the meaning of a work. At base, it argues (again Wikipedia), that “the meaning of a text is derived from the reader through the reading process.” Literature, according to this school, cannot exist in a vacuum but requires the participation of the reader in order to create meaning.

Things I like looking at especially are metanarrative/metatextual stuff, and intertextuality, which aren’t technically schools of theory but are aspects of any given text you can focus on when analyzing it. 

Marià Fortuny - Self portrait - 1863-73

Marià Fortuny i Marsal (complete name Marià Josep Maria Bernat Fortuny i Marsal, in Spanish: Mariano José María Bernardo Fortuny y Marsal; June 11, 1838 – November 21, 1874), known more simply as Marià Fortuny or Mariano Fortuny, was the leading Catalan painter of his day, with an international reputation. His brief career encompassed works on a variety of subjects common in the art of the period, including the Romantic fascination with Orientalist themes, historicist genre painting, military painting of Spanish colonial expansion, as well as a prescient loosening of brush-stroke and color.

He was born in Reus, a town near Tarragona, in Catalonia, Spain. His father died when Marià was an infant, and his mother by the time he was 12. Thus, Marià was raised by his grandfather, a cabinet-maker who taught him to make wax figurines. At the age of 9, at a public competition in his town, a local painter, teacher and patron, Domènec Soberano i Mestres, encouraged further study. At the age of 14 he moved to Barcelona with his grandfather. The sculptor Domènec Talarn secured him a pension allowing him to attend the Academy of Barcelona (La Llotja school of art). There he studied for four years under Claudi Lorenzale and Pau Milà i Fontanals (es), and in March 1857 he gained a scholarship that entitled him to two years of studies in Rome starting in 1858. There he studied drawing and grand manner styles, together with Josep Armet i Portanell, at the Academia Giggi.

In 1859, he was called by the Government of the Province of Barcelona (Diputació de Barcelona) to depict the campaigns of the Spanish-Moroccan War. He went to Morocco from February to April of that year, making sketches of landscapes and battles, which he showed in Madrid and Barcelona when he returned. These would later serve him as preliminary sketches for his monumental piece, The Battle of Tetuan (La batalla de Tetuan, 1862–64, Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya).
Since the days of Velázquez, there had been a tradition in Spain (and throughout Europe) of memorializing battles and victories in paint. On the basis of his experiences, Fortuny was commissioned by the Council of the Province of Barcelona (Diputació de Barcelona) to paint a large canvas diorama of the capture of the camps of Muley-el-Abbas and Muley-el-Hamed by the Spanish army. He began his composition of The battle of Tetuan on a canvas 15 metres long; but, though he worked on it off and on during the next decade, it was never finished.

The greater influence of this travel on Fortuny was his subsequent fascination with the exotic themes of the world of Morocco, painting both individuals and imagined court scenes. He visited Paris in 1868 and shortly afterwards married Cecilia de Madrazo, the daughter of Federico de Madrazo, who would become curator of the Prado Museum in Madrid. Together, they had a son, Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo, who became a well-known fashion and tapestry designer. Another visit to Paris in 1870 was followed by a two years’ stay at Granada, but then he returned to Rome, where he died somewhat suddenly on November 21, 1874 from an attack of tertian ague, or malaria, contracted while painting in the open air at Naples and Portici in the summer of 1874. One of his pupils was Attilio Simonetti.

anonymous asked:

What actually is fascism?

Fascism was a political ideology and philosophical movement from the early twentieth century which was formulated by Giovanni Gentile and Benito Mussolini. In some ways, it is a highly historicist school of thought, focused on being able to act in the moment defined by a particular historical context; on the other hand, it reduces history down to certain eternal and fundamental truths (these truths form what is referred to as Ur-Fascism). On the most basic level, Fascism believes in the spirit of struggle and the spirit of unity. It believes in the struggle for unity, and, most importantly that we are unified in struggle. It believes in unifying hierarchy, unity within the state, sacrifice out of loyalty, and the battle to grow the empire.

Fascism is grounded in a philosophy called Actual Idealism, which posits that ideas are actions that are engaged in the world instead of being separate from it. According to this philosophy, subjectivity is therefore not something that exists in itself, outside of reality, but is something that exists objectively in relation to the world around it. Gentile believed that when we engage in the act of thinking (and engage in the thinking that accompanies action), we’re not just thinking about thoughts, we’re understanding their relationship to the world. On the other hand, he believed that when referencing thoughts without really thinking about them, we are depriving our thoughts of their vitality and objectivity. There is some merit to the dialectical ability of Gentile to use the thesis of pensiero pensante (the act of thinking) to account for and synthesize pensiero pensato (static thought), though he only goes half way (yet too far half way) in synthesizing by claiming that “thinking accounts for the thought” without considering how “thoughts motivate thinking”. I agree with his synthesis of the subject and the object, but he seems to start with the subject as a causa sui and prima causa without considering that the self is created by and has to always deal with something other than itself, that it has external conditions which it cannot surpass (including its own existence). Gentile certainly considers that the self has to actively exist in relation to the object to be real, but he doesn’t consider that the object exists in relation to many subjects (like a monarch does), or that the subject comes from and exists within the object (thus the reason choices (and choice itself) aren’t totally independent and have their causes, consequences (which can be beyond our control), and circumstances or context). There is a simple reason as to why this is the case too, namely, because the subject isn’t the only thing that is active, it is subject to an objective condition of activity and chaos. Objectivity is active too, this is how it creates the creative subject. Actual idealism represents a deeper side of Fascism that I see the merit in, but don’t fully subscribe to. I’m more of a Hegelian, believing that there are truths which precede us, which account for our ability to engage, and which we can realize in our engagement. I don’t think our thoughts can ever be inactive, but I believe some can actively come to terms with the nature of our reality better than others. Already you can see the notion of struggle conveyed in the idea of thought as action and you can see the notion of unity conveyed by the subjects active engagement in its own objective existence. Fascism is often wrongly classified as an irrationalist philosophy, when it doesn’t believe things are fundamentally irrational, but reducible to action/activity/struggle. Joseph de Maistre was more of an “irrationalist” in his belief that reason was futile, even though he rationally reduces things down to a kind of dark, primal, yet holy violence that sanctifies the world with blood and order on a very foundational level.

Fascism is also a rejection of positivism, believing not only that facts follow from perspective (like Nietzsche and the phenomenologists), but that perspective is subordinate to higher laws (like Guenon and the traditionalists). For the Fascist, man is subordinate to thought and action as well as the deeds of great men throughout history. In some respect, Fascism maintains a degree of traditionalism in the way it values great civilizations from the past, on the other hand, Fascism understands the need to move forward and develop within the confines of certain established traditions. It might be fair to call Fascism one of the first Archeofuturist ideologies. Aesthetically, this is symbolized by its affinity towards both classicism (especially stripped classicism on an architectural level) and futurism.

Mussolini and Gentile were both initially influenced by Marx (believe it or not) and Hegel. I think they appreciated the dynamism of Marx’s ideas on class conflict and the materialist dialectic. Gentile clearly rejected Marx’s materialism for Hegel’s idealism, however, he didn’t totally abandon the idea of thinking and acting (if not struggling) in relation to a material world, he just also fully acknowledged that the material world could be changed and formed by our thoughts (Hegel certainly saw a relation between subject and object as well, however he is often contrasted as being more idealistic in relation to Marx’s materialism). While Marx emphasized base structural conditions in society, he clearly conceded to Gentile’s inclinations on some level, as Marx saw how values and concepts could change society and even changed society himself using said means (though he didn’t change it exactly according to his intentions). Mussolini was initially more of a Leninist than a Marxist, and I think where Gentile might’ve preferred Hegel’s corporatism to Marx’s communsm, Mussolini preferred Lenin’s socialism to Marx’s communism. Mussolini was eventually led to abandon Marx all together when reading Nietzsche helped to further fuel and inspire in him a sense of the need for great men and a master morality. The prominent Italian “Elitist School” also helped to edge Mussolini in this direction, Robert Michels and Vilfredo Pareto even praised and aligned themselves with Mussolini’s movement. Gaetano Mosca was a little more at odds with Fascism.

Mussolini was also inspired by another One-time-Marxist named Geroges Sorel, who was focused on the need for societal violence based on some sort of great and sacred myth. Sorel was initially fond of the myth of the struggle of the proletariat, but was later drawn to guild socialism and far-right (if not Fascistic) movements in France, particularly those related to Charles Maurras. Mussolini himself preferred the myth of a great roman empire to the struggle of the proletariat, and so Fascism was born (the Fasces is a symbol of a bundle of rods tied tightly together with an axe, a simple of domination and order in Rome (again, note the spirit of struggle and the spirit of unity)). Another point worth mentioning is that another huge influence was the nationalist Mazzini, who was also in favor of having a monarchical system in Italy (and yes, nationalistic monarchism/monarchistic nationalism is a thing (arguably absolutism gave birth to the modern nation-states), just look to Napoleon, Prussia, Greece, and many Arab nations from the turn of the century). It was in the tradition of Francesco Crispi (one of Mazzini’s associates) that Fascism based itself upon the maxim: “the monarchy unites us; the republic would divide us.” (though this monarchical influence would change near the end of the Italian Republic).

On a political level, Fascism was referred to as Corporative/Corporatist Syndicalism. Corporatism/Corporativism is an idea that touches upon where Fascism becomes Ur-Fascism. Contrary to what many Fascists say, corporatism does actually relate to corporations, but more importantly, it relates to the idea of a body politic (body is “corpus” in Latin). The body politic refers to the idea that society is organized like a body, with every part in its place, with higher and lower parts, and with a head to rule all the parts. Fascism doesn’t necessarily relate to the rule of highly privatized, joint-stock corporations (a better term for this might be corporatocracy), but Corporatism does, and so does Fascism by virtue of this point. You may wonder, “what society doesn’t have different roles and social hierarchy”, and the answer is: none. But some can accept the nature of roles and hierarchy better than others, if not see the benefits of such. Just as we seek to preserve our bodies, so too do some societies seek to preserve theirs. Other societies tear themselves apart, whether through middle class merchants killing the aristocratic heads or through plebs tearing down the merchants, if not the aristocrats. While some people see Fascism as a left-wing idelogy, it is precisely because it aligned with the idea of a hierarchical corporate state over any revolutionary ideologies (capitalism or communism), that Mussolini and Gentile both saw Fascism as Rightist.

Corporation was a term to designate a legally recognized, unified body of individuals (a corporate body) or an office consisting of one individual (a corporation sole (e.g. a monarch)). The term corporation can include the state itself, as was explicitly recognized in the roman empire. In addition to the corporate status of the state, after the roman empire, the predominant corporations in power were guilds within feudal societies. These were protective economic bodies that were put in place by feudal lords to ensure that there were roles for individuals and goods to supply those roles. This system was more about ensuring supply to maintain social functions than it was creating demand, given its context in an age of greater scarcity. As feudalism evolved into more centralized, imperialistic monarchism and mercantilism, the predominant corporations became large, monopolistic chartered and crowned corporations which often occupied colonial holdings. In some cases these corporations contributed to the decline of the guild system, in other cases the guild system was maintained (the latter is what defined the Cameralism of Prussia as distinct from Mercantilism). Either way, guilds and chartered corporations worked within the state. It wasn’t until Adam Smith that corporations became much more privatized.

Corporatism became popular in the 19th century, as a reaction to laissez faire economics. Adam Müller was the first to formulate the ideology, at which point it was also referred to as distributism. Müller looked to the guild corporatism of the middle ages as an ethical model for just distribution, and saw it as a system where the interests of the upper class were unified with the interests of the lower class. He engaged in a critique of Smith that was more instructive and compromising than it was critical. Hegel also formulated a model for Corporatism in his “Philosophy of the Right”, which was highly popular among the Protectionists of the Prussian School. The German sociologist, economist, and philosopher Othmar Spann largely represents a synthesis of the protectionists (like List), the mercantilists (like Colbert), and the guild corporatists (like Müller). Around the turn of the century, many other prominent corporatist thinkers emerged, including: H. P. Lovecraft (who praises guild corporatism), Oswald Spengler (in his Prussian Socialist ideology), Gottfried Feder, Major General J. F. C. Fuller, and Oswald Moseley. Austria, Portugal, and Ireland also had explicitly corporatist movements, some of which came into power. In addition to this, the Roman Catholic Church also favored Corporatism around the turn of the century (protestants came to favor it later on, in contrast to their supposed work ethic (that was a Weberian joke)).

In the U.S.A., Keynes’ model for industrial and corporate growth linked business and government together in a manner that embodied the body politic, and this was further substantiated by: FDR’s economic advisor being a huge Mussolini fanboy, Taylorism encouraging scientific management by an elite; and Fordism encouraging a more standardized, technological system over a more organic, free system. Keynes and Mussolini even “flirted” with one another, Mussolini praising Keynes’ critique of Laissez-Faire economics, and Keynes acknowledging Mussolini “had his wisdom teeth”. It was during this period in the U.S., that U.S. joint stock corporations became so powerful that they started to monopolize around the world, however, a lot of them killed each other off while competing, resulting in a system where people are more inclined to sell out or size down rather than continuously undercut competitors (IBM is a great example of this). One could say this corporatocratic competition caused a dying body politic, unlike in China, where a more mercantilist corporatist model is being followed. Northern Europe also started to adopt social corporatist systems around this time, which were influenced by a similar movement as Keynesianism referred to as the Stockholm school, one difference seeming to be that the Stockholm school seems to emphasize a more Statist model than Keynes, who primarily had the Anglo-Saxon model in mind.

In Fascist Italy, Mussolini started off his economic policy in a manner that would’ve shocked many corporatists. He started off by favoring laissez-faire, classically liberal economics. I believe this was in sync with his theory on how capitalism developed (he was right to think it started off chaotic and then consolidated/grew stronger more and more). I imagine Mussolini did this to see which companies could offer the best prices and the best quality while making the most money (this would determine which companies could operate the most efficiently when later-monopolized). He reduced taxes, there were actually  attempts to attract foreign investment (All foreign capital was exonerated of taxes) and establish trade agreements, and efforts were made to balance the budget and cut subsidies. In addition to all of this, Mussolini privatized health care. This was all in favor of what he dubbed heroic or dynamic capitalism and for the sake of productivism.

To contrast this, while Mussolini got rid of labour unions, he recreated them as corporate syndicates which were granted a considerable amount of power to control and regulate production practices, distribution, expansion and other factors with their members. These syndicate corporations were able to monopolize the representation of labour, and sought to maintain their power through fair representation. Each industry had it’s own syndicate corporation. These syndicates generally put measures forward that were more feasible for bigger monopolistic businesses than smaller businesses, and so a shift towards state-monopolization succeeded the shift towards privatization, corporatization, and syndicalism. Mussolini believed this phase of monopolization to be the second state of capitalism.

Due to all the speculation and excess wealth in wages, the Lira was faced with inflation and was loosing its value. To combat this, Mussolini restored the gold standard, which, although initially reducing real wage growth, was able to provide a solid platform for wages to grow. Mussolini would later re-introduce representative currency in a more productive (and profitable) economic environment.

Mussolini also started to cartelize a lot of the big monopolies (that had come out of growing private players and syndicate interests) within the CGII (Confederazione Generale dell'Industria Italiana). Just like Mussolini forced the labour unions to merge into corporative syndicates, he forced industrial monopolies to merge (we do the opposite with anti-trust laws today, though we still have monopolies all the same). Where the CGII represented a government-linked (though not fully state owned, albeit state controlled)) corporate monopoly over industry, the GCFSC (General Confederation of Fascist Syndical Corporations) represented a corporate monopoly over labour. To quote wiki, “Finally, the Industrial Reconstruction Institute (IRI) was formed in January 1933 and took control of the bank-owned companies, suddenly giving Italy the largest industrial sector in Europe which made use of government-linked companies (GLC). It saved at the end of 1933 the Hydroelectric Society of Piemont, which shares had fallen from 250 liras to 20 liras, while in September 1934, the Ansaldo trust was again reconstituted under the authority of the IRI, with a capital of 750 million liras“. Throughout most of the 30′s, Italy witnessed GDP growth, real wage growth, and an increase in the value of its currency. That being said, the economy had it’s faults. Not much capital went to investment goods and most of the economy was made up of the agricultural sector.

In Mussolini’s eyes, capitalism could go two ways for its final stage, the first is that it seeks to supply a uniform demand worldwide or that it turns to the State to restrict the merchants lust for power to the benefit of their own community (instead of enabling it at the expense of said community). To be fair, I think a worse risk than world-wide supply and demand is worldwide privatized lending. Had Fascism had even bigger, global monopolies at it’s disposal, who knows what that could do (in terms of reducing costs, prices, increasing profits, increasing income/wages, and creating general global stability). Ultimately, the Fascist economy could be classified as being somewhere in between a regulated market and a planned economy. Economics were subordinate to politics (namely the state), however, a unique economic model with vast potential still developed nonetheless.

While Fascism was limited to a particular place and time, it touched upon certain truths that inspired other similar regimes and truths which underlie every society, even our own. Proto-Fascism refers to political systems prior to the Fascist ideology which had fundamental similarities to it. Para-Fascist ideologies (ideologies influenced by Fascism) differ in terms of National spirit and certain particularities (race, cultural attitudes), Crypto-Fascist ideologies differ in terms of their ability to come to terms with the nature of the body politic, but Ur-Fascism forever recognizes the potential strength of the state and governing forces, through which Fascism actualizes itself on some level, again and again.

Painter and Art Lover in Front of a Painting (mid-1870s). Vilhelm Rosenstand (Danish, 1838-1915). Oil on canvas.

In 1869, on a grant from the Academy, Rosenstand travelled to Rome where he spent a number of years. He completed a number of genre works in Italy and then Paris depicting everyday scenes. In 1883, he returned to Denmark only to find that Realism had become the dominant trend, rendering his genre and historicist approach rather outdated.

Understanding Spheres of Study, or, Why English Literature isn’t just a Sideshow to other, more “Central” Studies

What follows is an argument or approach to literature which is central to my personal thinking. When I run into people or critics who favour a historicist’s approach, or who think of literature as just something artistic or something which is a natural consequence of any society of people, I find myself trying to explain the “Spheres” to them, so I felt I should put down exactly what I mean by this here.

When I say “central” studies I mean the areas of study, thought and writing which are typically thought of as the big dogs- History, Geography, Politics, Economics, Sciences- and those which are no less central but slightly less popular- Anthropology, Philosophy, and we might say Languages. Out of all of these huge areas, which often get rolled into eachother to create massive ‘cover-all’ words like “socioeconomics” and “geopolitics”, English literature has never really felt like it has fit in, because for the most part even the biggest and most significant outputs of the whole area can be reduced to lines on a bit of paper. It also frequently feels like even if Shakespeare had never existed, we would all be basically as happy as we are today, and history most certainly would have gone in exactly the same direction.

Have you noticed also that Literature never gets fully rolled into any other word? There’s no “Socioliterature”, although there is sociological analysis of writing, and there’s no “literonomics”, although there are of course many analyses of how money affects writing and writers. This is partially because literary writing is always one level distant from all these other things, and that’s because of the large significance of human imagination in literary writing, that it is like art. Geography must surely affect art, all of us look around at each other like we know this, but it is definitely easier to nod heads and agree on a big word like “geopolitics” because geographical factors so obviously and directly affect politics: if a country has a border with another one the politics of trade will alter, and if the politics of war break down it’s harder to invade if there’s a sea between two countries. Geography messes with politics, politics messes with what the geography means. Geography, on the other hand, might mess with art, but then art carries on regardless, as if there was never any other way it was going to go, and as if the art still exists on a higher level where great works can still be written and still appear to be justified by or to justify the current political/economic/historical climate. For instance, we don’t think of Paradise Lost as flawed just because it was concerned with a specific and topical piece of politics: what to do with Kings. We might criticise Milton for his thinking being too affected by Kings, and that will always be fair, but the art itself is formed by him in a kind of perfection, like it justifies whatever specific freeze-frame position people England finds itself at when he writes it.

We can look at literature’s relation to any other of the big subjects in a very similar way: literature will remain weird because it is partially something which is not entirely creative or artistic, and can have polemic or argumentative purposes, but it also has such a large and strange creative angle which is far harder to tie down in a scientific way. The products of literary creativity are affected by Central Subjects, but sometimes they just do what they want anyway. Literature can seem entirely at the whim of bigger effects while also being entirely independent of them, Paradise Lost seems impossibly bound up in contemporary politics while also seeming like it was never a predictable consequence of history.

There are two ways to look at literature, therefore:

The reductive view of literature as a circle overlapped by nearly everyone else in the Grand Venn-Diagram of subjects

OR

Literature as something entirely unique which exists exactly as its own sphere of study. By this I mean so unique that the word which we need for it is precisely “literature”, but that when you hear literature, you now need to not think just of writing, but as Literature as its own sphere.

This latter approach necessitates a bigger revision in your thinking, and in the thinking of a lot of critics, than you might anticipate. Let me explain by way of two examples:

Back in around 1660-1700 in England two big pieces of philosophical/political thought were published: Leviathan by Hobbes, and An Essay Concerning Human Understanding by Locke. Both are interesting because they begun the separation of imaginative literature from literature like philosophical and political writing. Hobbes’ Leviathan was about using a single analogy, or aesthetic, in this case the idea of everyone in a state composing a single leader, or Leviathan, who would represent the nation as a whole. Locke’s Essay was a highly structured argument, which we would likely not recognise as “literary” today, but which back then fell under “literature”- but by being a treatise, and by working hard to make a point rather dispassionately instead of putting character or literary device into the writing, that is, by trying to be scientific, the essay became something slightly less recognisable as literature, it seemed to split off into science, or the science of human thought, that is, philosophy. Just as Hobbes was allowed to use a poetic device to describe politics without it being too strange to his own time, Locke was standing out by being very technical and mathematical in how he used his rationality.

The reason for the slight confusion in terms over the word “literary” and “literature” in the above is my main point: that before a certain turning point (which occured around the two texts mentioned but was not forced by those works alone), in terms of the word used, there was no difference between imaginative literature and philosophical and political writing. That is, it all used to be ‘literature’, and creative devices or flights of fancy were understood more like means to an end, which was whatever your purpose as a writer was- praise, satire, storytelling, religious writing, allegory. This of course was a very gradual process, but it had to do a lot with the availability of paper and pen and the strict purposes of writing. Way back when, around with Chaucer and Skelton, you needed a patronage to write because of how expensive the whole process, including publication, was. Then, in broad terms, came the “Renaissance”, when it was the whole court who could write things, but mainly things which had to be to do with the court or kings or patrons, or they had to be targeted love poems, and then came a great burst of playwrights who, again, were writing to a purpose. Then there was a great age of satire, which was often supported by patronage but which was also often politically or personally important, and once more we see restriction to purpose. When literature is restricted into a purpose, we can actually say it moves more towards the concerns of the Central Subjects: so it is less up to the whims of the imagination of the poet, and has to be more of, say, an attack poem, or a praise poem, or it has to fit closely to a religious or romantic standard. It just didn’t happen that writers did what they want, and therefore it was easier to see literature less as art and more like a style of writing, or even just the style of writing.

The first period of really individuated poetry was therefore what we term the “Romantic” period, where people were being more and more imaginative by going out on walks and the like and writing what they felt in their hearts based on what they personally saw. This led to a lot of stuff that gets parodied today for being gushing and purposeless, and that’s because at the point it was so new because of those two factors: and that’s also what a lot of people think about when they think about what poetry is and means today, in a university setting, and in a wider setting. The first really significant romantic poem (we might also have said Paradise Lost) is Night Thoughts, which accordingly was criticised for being too self-centred. Do you start to see what I mean?

Imaginative literature, which we think of as all literature today and in the past, incorporating prose, poetry and playwriting, and which we think off as basically self-centred to the writer, is a categorical term which is divergent from what writing used to be understood as. Imagination is an ingredient which is more or less in the mix depending on the terms of the poetry and the era of the writing. And that’s because the degree to which you were being creative only gradually became a core question as literature was developing, and as poets were looking backwards at what sort of poetry had come before.

The picture we start to build up is one which in fact supports the historicists view: that in basic terms literature is something which is primarily a consequence of its time and place. But the view we are building up also denies the idea that literature was a sideshow because we have to ask the question of why it was that authors have gone to such staggering lengths to construct an art that is like life, and not quite like life, which can evoke feelings more strongly than normal writing, and which is still necessarily tied to normal writing, that is, we run right back into the word “literature”, and are unable to reconcile it as anything else but its own full existence. For me, my definition of literature must just be:

“People wrote things sometimes”

The reason that’s my definition is because no critic can actually give a good reason for why the imaginative element would ever have been so strong or so important, or eventually so dominant in what we understand as literature, unless it was just a phenomenon in human culture that every civilization around the globe has at some point produced artists and writers who have made their own Paradise-Lost-type writings. Reducing it to ‘art’ by calling it ‘imaginative’, and therefore seeing it as “non-central”, misses the fact that in our 2000 well-recorded years, only for a fairly large chunk has “imaginative” even been used as a term to separate and, yes, discriminate against, literary writing.

It’s not good enough to owe the importance of studying literature to something like “It gives us a sense of how people were feeling at the time” because history does that. It’s no good using them as historical documents either because you tend to need history to decode them, not the other way round. And they therefore certainly aren’t the “emotional record of a time”, not least because the emotions we actually need to know about are those of the people who didn’t get to write, not the emotions of the essentially bourgeouisie writers of anything pre-1700.  And yet, here these pieces of art stand: phenomena which so obviously ARE records of a time, and which are also only one person’s voice, and which are so deeply rich and rewarding to our study of them, but which have a whole brand of study (literary criticism) which is highly self-reflexive and not particularly useful outside of itself. Works of literary art tell us about philosophy and about how we think, of course, but their importance, literature’s importance, to me, the importance which really puts them as centrally as the other stuff, is more like this:

“You’re not going to live forever.”

This is what I mean by divorcing your own current idea of literature from “art is entertainment”, or “art is entertainment which sometimes has relevance to the Central Subjects”, or even from thinking that it’s important to study art because art is good. Literature matters because within the realms of “stuff to see” and “stuff to understand” you aren’t going to die having understood everything within the Central Subjects, and you don’t want to leave the life in which you exist, in a timeline where so many staggering things have been made, without having read at least many of them. The process of understanding this starts with accepting that “imaginative literature” is only really one category of literature that we have within human history, and it ends with seeing that these big texts, these “world of their own” texts, DO exist, and must be more than sideshows in our reality and human history, even if they were already not sideshows by virtue of their own partial importance to the Central Subjects.

Literature is only the record of the fact that “people wrote things sometimes” because there was never any discoverable reason, try as the historicists might, for any of the writing to exist, unless that historicist wants to hazard an explanation at why we make art. This is part of why my explanation of my new definition of literature is so woolly- because the word we have for it, “literature”, is correct, and yet “literature” has come to be a word which knocks against the “history of written art” until it has fallen outside of its own sphere.

Literature is literature, and it is the subject which is to do with the things which were written, and the reasons why and techniques how they were written.

And if that sounds too general, or like it covers too big a ground, it’s because you need to widen your understanding of how complex the sphere of literature is.

Love,

Alex

Slavery helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England. Plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected with the slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide.

Eric Williams advanced these powerful ideas in Capitalism and Slavery, published in 1944. Years ahead of its time, his profound critique became the foundation for studies of imperialism and economic development. Binding an economic view of history with strong moral argument, Williams’s study of the role of slavery in financing the Industrial Revolution refuted traditional ideas of economic and moral progress and firmly established the centrality of the African slave trade in European economic development. He also showed that mature industrial capitalism in turn helped destroy the slave system. Establishing the exploitation of commercial capitalism and its link to racial attitudes, Williams employed a historicist vision that set the tone for future studies. In a new introduction, Colin Palmer assesses the lasting impact of Williams’s groundbreaking work and analyzes the heated scholarly debates it generated when it first appeared.

Revelation: 4 Views

When one begins to study the book of Revelation, most commentators will write about the various approaches to the interpretation of this book.  They usually are described in four ways:  the Preterist view, the Historicist view, the Futurist view, and the Idealist view. I’ll briefly describe each one:

Preterist View:  Believes that most of the visions described in Revelation have already occurred in the past (during the early years of the Church).  For example, Preterists believe that the first three chapters of Revelation describe 1st century churches, chapters 4-11 describe Jerusalem’s fall in AD 70 while chapters 12-19 would point to Rome’s fall in the 4th century.  The remainder of Revelation would cover the Patristic, medieval, Reformation, and modern church ages culminating with the second coming, general resurrection, last judgment, and the coming of the new heaven and earth.

Historicist View:  Historicists see the events of Revelation as symbolic portrayals of church history from the time of the apostolic church to the end of the age.

Futurist View:  Futurists generally see events in Revelation chapters 4-22 as visions that will be fulfilled in the future to 21st century readers.  People who hold to this interpretive approach believe in an intense seven-year tribulation, followed by the 1,000 year reign of Christ on earth, culminating with the general resurrection, last judgment and the new heaven and earth.

Idealist View:  As defined by one commentator, Idealists view it as a symbolic pictures of such timeless truths as the victory of good over evil.

So, which view do you hold to and why?  

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Resources referred to include:

  • Introduction to Revelation, ESV Study Bible
  • Introduction to Revelation, NIV Study Bible
  • The New International Greek Testament Commentary on Revelation by G.K. Beale.
My dystopian unit has:

Since you asked:

  • The Hunger Games (book 1)
  • The Lottery by Shirley Jacksoon
  • Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Equilibrium (film)
  • Field trip to see: Insurgent.  (We’re just lucky it’s coming out now and the theater is across the street.)
  • Maybe The Veldt by Ray Bradbury. (I haven’t read it yet.)  

This is my last time doing this whole, big unit because next year the English 10 honors teacher and I are switching courses and she’ll take it over.  English 10 will have a college credit component, and I have to teach it (thanks Masters Degree!).  That class will have 1984, and doing this unit for freshmen will make 1984 more approachable.  But I’ll teach that from a historicist perspective.  

Der Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral) is the short name for the Evangelical (Protestant) Supreme Parish and Collegiate Church on the Museuminsel in Berlin-Mitte. The current building was finished in 1905, it’s a main work of Historicist architecture of the “Kaiserzeit”. The Dom is the parish church of the congregation Gemeinde der Oberpfarr- und Domkirche zu Berlin, a member of the umbrella organisation Evangelical Church of Berlin-Brandenburg-Silesian Upper Lusatia.