Concept of Culture

Term: Fall 2009

Subject Code: GLIB

Course Number: 5104

The preoccupation of many social thinkers with the phenomenon of "culture" long antedates J.G. Herder's remark that "nothing is more indeterminate than this word." Still, historians, sociologists, and anthropologists have shared a preoccupation with culture ever since. This seminar addresses the history of social thought, the sociology of knowledge, and studies of culture, and it explores the main debates surrounding the idea of culture and its development. Whether discussing the Greek notion of paidea, the Romantic ideal of genius, or the historiographic essays of the Annales historians of our own day, dynamics of two contrasting approaches to culture are traced: the broad empirical and anthropological approach, and the narrower normative and "humanistic" approach. The readings-some of them passionate critiques of culture-include works by Plato, Aristophanes, Vico, Rousseau, Herder, Goethe, Marx, Ferdinand de Saussure, Sigmund Freud, Fernand Braudel, J. Heuzinga, Ernst Cassirer, Mikhail Bakhtin, Kwame Anthony Appiah, and Samuel Beckett. Cross-listed with Sociology.

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