Cultural Capital: The Problem of Literary Canon Formation / Edition 1

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Overview

In Cultural Capital, John Guillory challenges the most fundamental premises of the canon debate by resituating the problem of canon formation in an entirely new theoretical framework. The result is a book that promises to recast not only the debate about the literary curriculum but also the controversy over "multiculturalism" and the current "crisis of the humanities." Guillory argues that canon formation must be understood less as a question of representing social groups in the canon than of distributing "cultural capital" in the schools, which regulate access to literacy, the practices of reading and writing. He declines to reduce the history of canon formation to one of individual reputations or the ideological contents of particular works, arguing that a critique of the canon fixated on the concept of authorial identity overlooks historical transformations in the forms of cultural capital that have underwritten judgments of individual authors. The most important of these transformations is the emergence of "literature" in the later eighteenth century as the name of the cultural capital of the bourgeoisie. In three case studies, Guillory charts the rise and decline of the category of "literature" as the organizing principle of canon formation in the modern period. He considers the institutionalization of the English vernacular canon in eighteenth-century primary schools; the polemic on behalf of a New Critical modernist canon in the university; and the appearance of a "canon of theory" supplementing the literary curriculum in the graduate schools and marking the onset of a terminal crisis of literature as the dominant form of cultural capital in the schools. The final chapter of Cultural Capital examines recent theories of value judgment, which have strongly reaffirmed cultural relativism as the necessary implication of canon critique. Contrasting the relativist position with Pierre Bourdieu's very different sociology of judgment, Guillory concludes that the
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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Guillory (English, Johns Hopkins U.) reframes the current debate as reflecting a "long-term decline in the cultural capital of literature." He examines the institutionalization of the "vernacular canon" in the 18th century; the rise of the New Critical canon in universities; and the advent of a "canon of theory" in the graduate schools. He reviews recent theoretical relations between aesthetics and value, and asserts that judgment should not be discredited. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226310442
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 505,611
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
1 Canonical and Noncanonical: The Current Debate 3
2 Mute Inglorious Miltons: Gray, Wordsworth, and the Vernacular Canon 85
3 Ideology and Canonical Form: The New Critical Canon 134
4 Literature after Theory: The Lesson of Paul de Man 176
5 The Discourse of Value: From Adam Smith to Barbara Herrnstein Smith 269
Notes 341
Index 385
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