Although my presentation on Cultural Criticism has been pushed back until next week, I thought I’d give everyone some things to think about, since some people might have already read the Tyson chapter.
Think back to the Apple readings from the very beginning of the semester. Apple’s thoughts on how ideology is ingrained into our schools gives us a great jumping point for understanding cultural criticism. Like Apple and the New Historicists, Cultural Critics believe that there is no such thing as objectivity, and that all human-made texts are tainted by the ideological beliefs of the creator. Cultural critics look for signs of politics and ideologies in a texts.
Tyson gives us some good ways to engage a cultural lens. How the “working class culture has been misunderstood or undervalued,” is one aspect of a cultural examination (296). Tyson states that we must ask what “social understandings” the work depends on (297). In other words, we might look for the status quo that is represented by a work, what beliefs create the status quo, and how the author praises or denounces those beliefs.
Although it can be difficult to decode our own culture in terms of ideology, I encourage you all to be cultural critics of our surroundings. I found myself unconsciously performing a cultural examination the other day as I looked at a magazine ad. The ad was for an affluent New York City hotel. The ad’s prominent image featured a doorman standing in the golden lobby. I thought it was interesting that our culture’s representation of luxury and comfort includes the subordination of others. The ad was saying that the hotel is a good one because someone will be serving you, and in a sense, that person will be beneath you. Of course, the doorman is undervalued. This is capitalism and social-class structure at their best, and most people would never notice it. This ad demonstrates how ideology is always at play in human-made texts.
Feel free to add your own observations as cultural critics throughout the week.