Concept of Culture

Term: Spring 2013

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, a preoccupation with culture has been widely shared ever since -- by historians, sociologists, and anthropologists. This seminar is addressed to those who are interested in the history of social thought, the sociology of knowledge, and studies of culture, and will explore 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, we shall trace the dynamics of two contrasting approaches to culture: the broadly empirical and anthropological approach, and the more narrowly 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.

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