Whose Canon? Culturalization versus Democratization
Keywords:Canon, canon formation, canons of fine art, canons of popular culture, culturalization, democratization, differentiation, dedifferentiation
Current accounts – and particularly the critique – of canon formation are primarily based on some form of identity politics. In the 20th century a representational model of social identities replaced cultivation as the primary means to democratize the canons of the fine arts. In a parallel development, the discourse on canons has shifted its focus from processes of inclusion to those of exclusion. This shift corresponds, on the one hand, to the construction of so-called alternative canons or counter-canons, and, on the other hand, to attempts to restore the authority of canons considered to be in a state of crisis or decaying. Regardless of the democratic stance of these efforts, the construction of alternatives or the reestablishment of decaying canons does not seem to achieve their aims, since they break with the explicit and implicit rules of canon formation. Politically motivated attempts to revise or restore a specific canon make the workings of canon formation too visible, transparent and calculated, thereby breaking the spell of its imaginary character. Retracing the history of the canonization of the fine arts reveals that it was originally tied to the disembedding of artists and artworks from social and worldly affairs, whereas debates about canons of the fine arts since the end of the 20th century are heavily dependent on their social, cultural and historical reembedding. The latter has the character of disenchantment, but has also fettered the canon debate in notions of “our” versus “their” culture. However, by emphasizing the dedifferentiation of contemporary processes of culturalization, the advancing canonization of popular culture seems to be able to break with identity politics that foster notions of “our” culture in the present thinking on canons, and push it in a more transgressive, syncretic or hybrid direction.
Arnold, Matthew (1867/2006): Culture and Anarchy, Oxford University Press.
Benjamin, Walter (1936/1999): “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, Illuminations, London: Pimlico, 211-244.
Bjurström, Erling (2008): “Cultural Policy and the Meaning of Modern and Post-Modern Taste, with Concluding Remarks on the Case of Sweden”, International Journal of Cultural Policy, 14:1, 65-78. [Read this article]
Bloom, Allan (1987): The Closing of the American Mind, New York: Simon & Schuster.
Bloom, Harold (1994): The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, New York: Riverhead Books.
Didi-Huberman, Georges (1990/2005): Confronting Images: Questioning the Ends of a Certain History of Art, The Pennsylvania State University Press.
du Gay, Paul & Michael Pryke (eds) (2002): Cultural Economy: Cultural Analysis and Commercial Life, London: Sage.
Eliot, T. S. (1948/1962): Notes towards the Definition of Culture, London: Faber and Faber.
Fornäs, Johan, Peter Aronsson, Karin Becker, Svante Beckman, Erling Bjurström, Tora Friberg, Martin Kylhammar & Roger Qvarsell (2007): Culture Unbound: Dimensions of Culturalisation, Linköping University, Department of Culture Studies (Tema Q), Report 2007:5.
Franck, Georg (1998): Ökonomie der Aufmerksamkeit. Ein Entwurf, München: Carl Hanser Verlag.
Gans, Herbert J. (1974/1999): Popular Culture and High Culture: An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste, New York: Basic Books.
Goehr, Lydia (2007): The Imaginary Museum of Musical Works: An Essay in the Philosophy of Music, Oxford University Press.
Goehr, Lydia (2008): Elective Affinities: Musical Essays on the History of Aesthetic Theory, New York: Columbia University Press.
Guillory, John (1993): Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation, Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
Kramnick, Jonathan Brody (1998): Making the English Canon: Print-Capitalism and the Cultural Past, 1700-1770, Cambridge University Press.
Kristeller, Paul Oskar (1959): “The Modern System of the Arts”, Morris Weitz (ed.): Problems in Aesthetics: An Introductory Book of Readings, New York & London: MacMillan, 108-64.
Lash, Scott (1990): Sociology of Postmodernism, London & New York: Routledge.
Lykkeberg, Rune (2008): Kampen om sandhederne, Om det kulturelle borgerskabs storhed og fald, København: Gyldendal.
Olsson, Anders (2011): “Requirements of an Aesthetic Concept of the Canon”, Hans Ruin & Andrus Ers (eds): Rethinking Time: Essays on History, Memory, and Representation, Huddinge: Södertörns högskola, 75-94.
Power, Dominic & Allen J, Scott (eds) (2004): Cultural Industries and the Production of Culture, London & New York: Routledge.
Ray, Larry & Andrew Sayer (eds.) (1999): Culture and Economy After the Cultural Turn, London: Sage.
Sontag, Susan (1965/2001): “One Culture and the New Sensibility”, Against Interpretation, London: Vintage, 293-304.
Sum, Ngai-Ling & Bob Jessop (2005): The Cultural Turn in Economics: Towards a Cultural Political Economy, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
Taylor, Charles (1989): Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, Cambridge University Press.
Taylor, Charles (2004): Modern Social Imaginaries, Durham & London: Duke University Press.
Thomassen, Einar (ed.) (2010): Canon and Canonicity: The Formation and Use of Scripture, Museum Tusculanum Press/University of Copenhagen.
Thompson, John B. (1990): Ideology and Modern Culture: Critical Social Theory in the Era of Mass Communication, Cambridge: Polity Press.
Copyright (c) 2012 Bjurström
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Copyright for all manuscripts rests with the author(s). The editors reserve the right to edit manuscripts. Contributors are responsible for acquiring all permissions from the copyright owners for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables, etc. Each author must, before final publication fill, in a publishing agreement provided by LiU E-Press.
Since 2021 Culture Unbound uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license for new articles, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given. For older articles please see each article landing page.