Culture and the Legacy of Anthropology
Transatlantic Approaches 1870–1930. A Reader
Table Of Contents
- About the author
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- Introduction (Maristella Gatto, Alessandra Squeo / Maristella Trulli)
- Part I The Forerunners
- The humanist and the anthropologist: Victorian notions of culture in Matthew Arnold and Edward Burnett Tylor (Alessandra Squeo)
- Thomas Henry Huxley on culture: Science and humanities in Victorian England (Laura Chiara Spinelli)
- Readings from
- Matthew Arnold, Culture and Anarchy (1869)
- Edward Burnett Tylor, Primitive Culture (1871)
- Thomas Henry Huxley, ‘Science and Culture’ (1880)
- Part II The Emergence of a Discipline
- From ‘armchair’ to ‘open-air’ anthropology: Views of culture in James George Frazer and Bronisław Malinowski (Maristella Gatto)
- Readings from
- James George Frazer, ‘The scope of social anthropology. A lecture delivered before the University of Liverpool’ (1908)
- Bronisław Malinowski, ‘Culture’, in Encyclopedia of Social Sciences (1931)
- Part III The American School
- Franz Boas: A brand new perspective for the study of culture (Angela Di Gennaro)
- The multifaceted nature of culture(s): Edward Sapir’s in-depth analysis (Angela Di Gennaro)
- Benjamin L. Whorf: Language as the key to understanding culture (Angela Di Gennaro)
- In search of a plural language: Rethinking Ruth Benedict’s new and old patterns of culture (Lorena Carbonara)
- Readings from
- Franz Boas, ‘Early Cultural Traits’ (1911)
- Edward Sapir, ‘Culture, Genuine and Spurious’ (1924)
- Benjamin Lee Whorf, ‘A linguistic consideration of thinking in primitive communities’ (1936)
- Ruth Benedict, Patterns of Culture (1934)
- Part IV Intersections
- No tradition, no culture-history: Introduction to Lawrence’s ‘America, Listen to Your Own’ (Cristina Consiglio)
- A theory in progress: Before and after Eliot’s Strange Gods (Maristella Trulli)
- T. S. Eliot’s homogeneous culture in After Strange Gods (Rosanna Damato)
- Forster’s ‘Does Culture Matter?’ and other essays (Lorenza Cervellera)
- ‘Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose’: Notes on ‘T. H. Huxley as a Literary Man’ (Elisa Fortunato)
- Interdisciplinarity and transculturalism in Ezra Pound’s Guide to Kulchur (Giovanna Epifania)
- Readings from
- D. H. Lawrence, ‘America, Listen to Your Own’ (1920)
- T. S. Eliot, After Strange Gods (1934)
- E. M. Forster, ‘Does Culture Matter?’ (1935)
- Aldous Huxley, ‘T. H. Huxley as a Literary Man’ (1936)
- Ezra Pound, Guide to Kulchur (1938)
- Notes on contributors
Culture and the
Transatlantic Approaches 1870–1930
Maristella Gatto, Alessandra Squeo
and Maristella Trulli (eds)
Bibliographic information published by Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek
Die Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche
Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data:
Names: Gatto, Maristella, editor. | Squeo, Alessandra, editor. | Trulli,
Title: Culture and the legacy of anthropology : transatlantic approaches,
1870-1930 : a reader / [edited by] Maristella Gatto, Alessandra Squeo,
and Maristella Trulli.
Description: Oxford, United Kingdom ; New York, NY : Peter Lang, 2020. | Includes
bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2019023070 | ISBN 9781788740456 (hardback)
Subjects: LCSH: Culture--Philosophy. | Anthropology--Philosophy. |
Anthropology--English speaking countries--History. | Culture in
literature. | Anthropology in literature.
Classification: LCC GN357 .C8474 2019 | DDC 306.01--dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2019023070
This publication has been made possible thanks to the support of the
Dipartimento di Lettere Lingue Arti. Italianistica e Culture Comparate.
Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro.
Cover design: Peter Lang.
Cover image created using wordle.net © Jonathan Feinberg 2014.
ISBN 978-1-78874-045-6 (print) • eISBN 978-1-78874-046-3 (ePDF)
ISBN 978-1-78874-047-0 (ePub) • ISBN 978-1-78874-048-7 (mobi)
© Peter Lang AG 2020
Published by Peter Lang Ltd, International Academic Publishers,
52 St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LU, United Kingdom
Maristella Gatto, Alessandra Squeo and Maristella Trulli have asserted their right
under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as Editors of
All rights reserved.
All parts of this publication are protected by copyright.
Any utilisation outside the strict limits of the copyright law, without the permission of
the publisher, is forbidden and liable to prosecution.
This applies in particular to reproductions, translations, microfilming, and storage and
processing in electronic retrieval systems.
This publication has been peer reviewed.
About the author
Maristella Gatto is Associate Professor of English Language and Translation at the University of Bari (Italy).
Alessandra Squeo is Researcher and Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Bari, where she teaches English Literature and Culture.
Maristella Trulli is Associate Professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Bari.
About the book
This reader investigates the changing face of the notion of culture, tracing how it emerged in some of the most important and controversial phases of the lively Anglo-American debate on the subject from the late nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century, including the crucial years of Modernism. Shedding light on the cross-disciplinary approaches that characterized the debate and focusing especially on the legacy of anthropology, the volume presents a selection of some of the most distinguished voices from such assorted fields as literature, linguistics, anthropology, sociology and ethnology, whose interests and areas of enquiry apparently converged and partly overlapped. A selection of primary sources from leading figures such as Matthew Arnold, Bronisław Malinowski, Ruth Benedict, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Aldous Huxley provide an overview of the crucial issues raised on a wide array of topics: civilization, race, nation, progress, evolution, education, art, science, literature and politics. The primary sources are accompanied by critical essays that offer new insights into these classic texts. This reader will be of use to undergraduate and postgraduate students as well as to scholars exploring the cross-disciplinary or transatlantic nature of the study of culture.
This eBook can be cited
This edition of the eBook can be cited. To enable this we have marked the start and end of a page. In cases where a word straddles a page break, the marker is placed inside the word at exactly the same position as in the physical book. This means that occasionally a word might be bifurcated by this marker.
maristella gatto, alessandra squeo and maristella trulli
laura chiara spinelli
angela di gennaro
angela di gennaro
angela di gennaro
The editors gratefully acknowledge permission from the following to reprint copyrighted material:
The Provost and Scholars of King’s College, Cambridge, and the Society of Authors and the E. M. Forster Estate, for permission to reprint E. M. Forster, ‘Does Culture Matter?’ from Two Cheers for Democracy (1935).
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, for permission to reprint ‘The Integration of Culture’, from Patterns of Culture by Ruth Benedict © 1934 by Ruth Benedict, renewed 1961 by Ruth Valentine. All rights reserved.
Faber & Faber for permission to reprint pp. 15–20 from After Strange Gods. A Primer of Modern Heresy (1934) by T. S. Eliot.
New Directions Publishing Corp, for permission to reprint from Guide to Culture by Ezra Pound © 1970 by Ezra Pound. Excerpts from pp. 6–7; 15–20: 23–24; 51–62; 79–84; 107–114; 134–136; 207–208; 217.
George Borchardt, Inc., for the Estate of Aldous Huxley, for permission to reprint The Olive Tree and Other Essays by Aldous Huxley © 1936 by Aldous Huxley, renewed 1964 by Laura Huxley.
maristella gatto, alessandra squeo and maristella trulli
In their prominent Culture: A Critical Review and Definitions (1952), Kroeber and Kluckhohn collected more than 150 definitions for the term provided by anthropologists, sociologists, psychologists, philosophers, and other scholars in their attempt to offer a comprehensive selection of perspectives, whose primary aim was ‘to illustrate developments of the concept and to bring out the convergences and divergences in various definitions’ (1952: 41). Further explaining the results of their merely descriptive approach to what they defined ‘the general history’ of the word ‘culture’, the two authors clarified: ‘As the concept of culture was expanded, more and more things came to be described as their possible significance was grasped’ (1952: 180). On the other hand, Raymond Williams’s renowned assertion that ‘Culture is one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language’ (1976: 76) is often mentioned as proof of the difficulty of defining such an elusive and unquestionably thorny concept, whose polysemic status and far-reaching implications have acquired increasing prominence in the academic debate of the last few decades. As Williams pointed out in his 1982 introduction to the Morningside Edition of Culture and Society, ‘[O];ne of the central ways of understanding the two extraordinary centuries which have so greatly changed the world and which underlie its now major crisis is through the detailed and complex thinking about culture which has been active and vibrant at every stage’ (1982: ix).←1 | 2→
The threat of increasing global homogenization of cultures in most recent years largely accounts for the growing prominence of cultural issues in the American and European debate ranging from the role of cultural difference in politics and governance to the evolution of the cultural economy (Anheir-Isar 2007). In opposition to the nationalists’ call for the preservation of the integrity of national cultural identity, a form of ‘cosmopolitan humanism’ is increasingly developing, according to Reno Lukis and Michael Brint, that is founded in the belief that ‘there is an essential core of understanding values, and rights that all human beings share’; despite the fears of national nationalists, ‘cosmopolitans advocate the creation of an “information society”, linked by a sophisticated and relatively open communications infrastructure. They represent the demands of a growing international middle class with ecological, social, economic, ethical, and political concerns that, they believe, are inexorably bound to an increasingly independent world’ (Lukis-Brint 2018: 2).
In the wider perspective of the growing field of enquiry of cultural studies, investigating how cultural practices relate to systems of power and to a huge variety of social phenomena, class structures, forms of art, ethnicity, or gender, Paul Willis has persuasively argued that ‘culture is a strange and capacious category. It’s one of those concepts, perhaps the best example, that we simply cannot do without – it is used everywhere – but which is also very unsatisfactory and cries out for betterment. No one can define it exactly, say what it really means’ (Willis 2008: xxi). The manifold meaning of the term has undergone a remarkable enlargement of its semantic area, as the scholar further explains:
At the same time and in a connected way, ‘culture’ has become an important and much used theoretical and substantive category of connection and relation. Both in academic and popular writing and commentary we see countless references to ‘cultures of … schools, organizations, pubs, regions, sexual orientations, ethnicities, etc’. You name it and you can add, ‘culture of’. All those evoked domains of ‘culture’ are seen as containing a multiplicity of human forms and relations. (Willis 2008: xxi)
On such premises, the object of the present volume is an investigation of the changing face of the concept of culture through the selection of contributions by some of the most eminent figures who animated the ←2 | 3→debate between the end of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the following century, with a specific focus on the crucial role played by anthropological studies and on their far-reaching legacy. This largely accounts for the inclusion in the volume of contributions by the scholars who most overtly epitomized the early impact of anthropological theory in the long process through which the notion of ‘culture’ was gradually outlined, against the wider horizon of an exceptionally manifold background where the term progressively became a central object of investigation in/for many other disciplines and fields of enquiry.
While not new in principle, the proposed reader might be of interest to an academic readership as well as a useful handbook for students given the relative unavailability of some of the selected passages, which offer a wider audience primary sources that are often quoted but rarely read in their integrity. The rationale of gathering so many different primary sources – given the extreme complexity of the object – is that they provide evidence of recurring fundamental motifs testifying, from diverse perspectives, how the birth and early development of the discipline of anthropology in the 1870s contributed to outlining a notion of culture that was later adopted and further explored by linguists, poets and creative writers in the first decades of the twentieth century.
Recurring themes in the selected texts are the weight of tradition, the relationship between the individual and society, the relationship between past and present, the constitutive elements of culture, the role of culture in a primitive and advanced society and the difference between culture and civilization. Each text is reproduced in its entirety whenever possible. All sections come with an introduction which highlights key ideas and concepts, while providing background and context information. The guided itinerary that the book thus creates through the interplay among selected sources may prove of interest to both undergraduate and postgraduate students in Cultural Studies, Linguistics, Literature, Anthropology as well as to young researchers in these fields.
The first section of the volume, focusing on ‘the forerunners’, highlights the influential definitions of culture provided by Matthew Arnold (1822–1888), Edward Tylor (1832–1917) and Thomas Huxley (1825–1895) between the 1860s and the 1880s, within the exceptionally multifaceted ←3 | 4→context of Victorian England. While certainly aiming at identifying the specific contribution of each individual figure to the lively debate on culture that characterized the second half of the nineteenth century from a variety of viewpoints, disciplinary fields and methodological approaches, the selected passages and the introductions that precede them mainly respond to the volume’s focal attempt to juxtapose their various voices, shedding light on their points of convergence and divergence, and above all exploring their relationship with the context in which they were shaped.
In this perspective, Matthew Arnold’s humanist view of culture as the pursuit of perfection ‘by means of getting to know […] the best that has been thought and said in the world’, which he sees as a possible alternative to the impending risk of social chaos and anarchy, is explored in the opening essay by Alessandra Squeo within the complex social and political background of the 1860s. It was a period of enormous colonial expansion, in which the notion of culture also played a crucial role in the shaping of the real and imagined imperial identity of England as the mother country. Likewise, Arnold’s position is inextricably related to the deep conflicts of a decade during which rising social classes were forcefully claiming their political rights, and the 1867 Reform Bill extended the right of vote to a greater part of society, including urban workers scarcely prepared, in Arnold’s view, for political responsibilities. The Elementary Education Act of 1870, the first of a number of parliamentary acts that set the frame for schooling of all children between the ages of 5 and 12 in England and Wales between 1870 and 1893, and certainly marked a milestone in educational development, above all responded to the urgent need to educate citizens who had recently been granted the right of vote. Arnold’s position Culture and Anarchy is thus primarily investigated in the light of the long impact of the Industrial Revolution and of the rapid growth of overcrowded industrial towns that threatened the myth of a prosperous and Arcadian ‘Little England’, largely undermining Victorian certainties and traditional values.
On the other hand, Arnold’s view is also explored in the perspective of an ideal cross-disciplinary dialogue with Edward Tylor’s anthropological conception of culture − a ‘complex whole’ including customs, practices, beliefs, ‘and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society’ − as it emerged in his three most influential works: Researches into ←4 | 5→the Early History of Mankind and the Development of Civilization (1865), Primitive Culture (1871), and Anthropology: An Introduction to the Study of Man and Civilization (1881). Tylor’s basic assumptions, as testified by the selected passage, bear traces of the scientific environment that strongly affected them, and of the long process that eventually led to the recognition of anthropology as a distinct branch of science in 1884, introducing a new conception of man, ‘the so-called “stratigraphic conception” of the relations between biological, social and cultural factors in human life’ (Geertz 1973: 4). Not only epitomized by the highest artistic and spiritual achievements of mankind, culture is thus likewise discernible, according to Tylor, in man’s material and technological progress at all the different stages of his long development, from a primitive condition of savagery to a civilized state. Such a descriptive approach is illustrated in the opening essay within a wide context that witnessed the far-reaching impact of Charles Darwin’s The Origins of Species (1859) and of the evolutionary theory as well as a lively debate on the thorny issue of ‘race’, that Tylor strongly refused to accept on a scientific ground, arguing that all societies develop in the same way in a progression that follows universal patterns.
A further contribution to the multiple voices that engaged, from a variety of perspectives, in the late nineteenth-century debate on culture is provided by Thomas Huxley. If the long process of reforms that increasingly improved the level of education in Victorian England had far-reaching social and political implications, as testified by Arnold’s views in Anarchy and Culture, it also marked the background of one of the most passionate seasons of the nineteenth-century dispute between scientific and literary culture, that re-enacted in new terms the old querelle on the supremacy of ancient or modern writers. As Laura Spinelli’s introduction to Huxley points out, the prominent position that science was acquiring in modern curricula both in grammar schools and in Universities, such as Oxford and Cambridge, was highly controversial and harshly contrasted by most humanists, firmly anchored to the defence of literary culture. Not only did biology and geology struggle to reach a place in education, but the ‘respectability’ of scientific disciplines and the idea, in a wider perspective, that they could actually embody a form of culture, were largely eroded by their assumed closeness to profit. It is against this background that Spinelli’s ←5 | 6→essay traces Huxley’s position in Science and Culture (1880). Arguing that to ignore science is to ignore the foundation of progress, he basically reversed Arnold’s thesis that literature is the unique way to achieve culture. Tracing the further evolution of the lively debate between Arnold and Huxley on this topic, and the subsequent development of Huxley’s thought in On Science and Art in Relation to Education (1882) as well as in his 1883 speech at the Royal Academy of Arts, Spinelli sheds light on his progressively more conciliatory tone. His proposal of a synthesis between scientific disciplines and humanities challenges the very notion of hierarchy in culture’s complementary constituents, in ‘the three branches of art and science and literature’ that are ‘essential to the making of a man’.
The development of these seminal investigations on the concept of culture is further explored in the second section of the volume, which traces ‘the emergence a discipline’ by focusing on the contribution by the founding fathers of British anthropology, James Frazer and Bronisław Malinowski. A leading figure in the research field devoted to the study of man and culture, in The Golden Bough (1890) Frazer called the attention of late nineteenth-century readers on accounts of religious and magical practices, from ancient and modern times, tied together by theories of sacrifical and regeneration myths and rituals which had an everlasting impact on the writers and artists of the Modernist period, especially Eliot, Pound, and Joyce. As noted in Gatto’s essay, Frazer’s approach was based upon an evolutionary paradigm which made him a recognized follower of Tylor. Given the evolutionary nature of culture, by which later stages bear traces of earlier ‘primitive’ stages via superstition, the anthropologist’s task was to him an attempt to reconstruct the past via attentive investigation of the present in a way that very much recalls the work of other scientists. This approach was based on the collection of documents and artefacts, rather than on fieldwork research, and was soon called into question when a new thriving generation of younger anthropologists made direct first-hand experience with the natives the sine qua non of anthropology, focusing on different kinds of questions concerning the life and culture of particular peoples. Among them, Bronisław Malinowski more than anyone else has been credited with having sounded the death knell for Frazer’s removed ‘armchair’ approach to anthropology (Manganaro 2015: 262– 263).
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- 2020 (July)
- A selection of contributions by some of the most relevant voices Cross-disciplinary approaches to culture The Anglo-American debate between late nineteenth and mid twentieth century culture and anthropology anthropology
- Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. X, 476 pp., 7 fig. b/w.