A Summary of Rita Felski’s The Role of Aesthetics in Cultural Studies A

  • Rita Felski says that critics often dismiss the field of cultural studies as mere fashion. As a matter of fact, the very attack on cultural studies has become a fashion nowadays
  • Rita Felski asserts ‘cultural studies’ has overtaken ‘postmodernism’ as one of the most misused words in the contemporary intellectual circle.

 

  • According to Felski, departments of literature make two major complaints about cultural studies. The first it that cultural studies had declared war on art and aesthetics. The second is the anti-aesthetic has become the new norm.
  • Cultural Studies is accused of reducing the text to context, poetry to propaganda, works of art to lumps of text.
  • According to Marjorie Perloff, “cultural studies currently dominates the arena of literary study.”
  • The opponents of cultural critics claim that cultural studies has become hegemonic.
  • The conjunction of cultural studies’ sovereignty in the academy and its disregard for language, beauty, and form has caused a rallying cry for a return to aesthetics.
  • Numerous literary scholars have published works worrying about future of aesthetics, wanting to talk about style and sensibility, the lilt of language and the play of form, the beauty of poetry.
  • Many literary critics, including Harold Bloom, have started taking for granted that the rise of cultural studies means the death of aesthetics.
  • Rita Felski says that she does not fight against the defenders of literature but she is growing weary of ready overwrought accounts of under threat from the villainous machinations of cultural studies.
  • Rita Felski names the conflict between cultural studies and literature as ‘Beauty and the beast scenario’.
  • Rita Felski defends that cultural studies is still a relative novelty which has modestly impacted the literature departments.

 

  • Rita Felski claims that even the well-read graduate students are unfamiliar with the central debates and methods of cultural studies.
  • Rita Felski also defends cultural studies against English professors who have called the field old and shown weariness of it.
  • Rita Felski argues that there is a pitifully small number of academic jobs in cultural studies.
  • Many recent polemics have taken for granted that doing cultural studies means suspecting the works of art as debunking them as tools of oppression. It means denying the truth of art and favoring the truth of politics.
  • In “Achieving our Country,” Richard Rorty accuses practitioners of cultural studies as being suspicious of romance and enthusiasm and lack all sense of awe.
  • Richard Rorty further says that if cultural studies take over departments of literature, instead of benefiting from great works of literature we will be left with nothing but expressions of political resentment clothed in jargon.
  • Rita Felski counters that cultural studies came about as a reaction against culture as a form of capitalist domination.
  • According to Rita Felski, Rorty believes that all the bad things happening to departments of literature is solely because of cultural studies.
  • Even in recent American debates, cultural studies has been called political reading of literature.
  • Rita Felski argues that doing cultural studies, for hostile critics, means focusing on content and context without paying attention to form; synonymous with the crudest form of sociological analysis; looking through a text as if it were a transparent vehicle for a simple political message.

 

  • Against the widespread misconceptions, Rita Felski stresses that cultural studies started off not as ideology critique, but rather as a critique of ideology critique.
  • Cultural studies does not seek to destroy aesthetics, but to broaden the definition of art by taking popular culture seriously.
  • Rita Felski says “it was always as much about form as about content, as much about pleasure as about ideology.”
  • Cultural studies provided a vocabulary for talking about the formal complexity of contemporary culture.
  • Two of the founders of cultural studies, Richard Hoggart and Raymond Williams, are not interested in strip-searching works of literature.
  • Raymond Williams was a scrupulous reader of literature and wanted literature not to be reduced as vehicles of ideology. His vision of culture is influenced by Romantic Aesthetics.
  • Richard Hoggart says that techniques of literary criticism would play a central part in the emerging field of cultural studies.
  • Cultural critics do not believe in art’s autonomy. They see it as embedded in the world, not transcending the world. However, it does not mean cultural studies lacks interest in aesthetics.
  • Rita Felski was drawn toward cultural studies due to rich and multifaceted works of popular culture.
  • Rita Felski accuses literature departments of seeing themselves as having a monopoly on aesthetic experiences.
  • Rita Felski asserts that cultural studies does not outlaw beauty but modern criticism and theory do.
  • According to Rita Felski, the history of aesthetics is the story of the ascendancy of sublime over beautiful. She further criticizes that modern art has been prized not for being beautiful but for being bleak, difficult, demanding. And only such are could do justice to modern life faced with grim realities.
  • Rita Felski explains that the study of culture is infused with aesthetic concepts, but it does not mean cultural studies is the future of literary studies or that cultural and literary studies should converge.
  • Felski refers to Raymond Williams as saying that cultural studies was not about ‘isolating the object’ but about ‘discovering the nature of a practice and its conditions’.

 

  • What makes cultural studies different from the politicized wing of literary studies is that it questions the trend of treating a single work as an allegory of social relations.
  • Doing cultural studies requires more than a superficial knowledge of different disciplines and traditions.
  • Cultural studies does not reduce aesthetics and politics into a general theory of textuality. Instead, it is concerned with tensions and competing pulls of different fields of knowledge.
  • Cultural studies needs other disciplines as intellectual resources and it thrives on them.
  • According to Rita Felski, modern literature is such a source of the bohemian, critical, anti-bourgeois sensibility which consequently gave birth to cultural studies.
  • Felski adores literature and cultural studies equally as she says “those who claim that literature is defunct, that literary studies should give way to cultural studies, are engaged in the worst kind of disciplinary imperialism.”
  • Rita Felski further says that cultural studies is best suited at works as an interdisciplinary major where faculty and students are bound to come across competitive truth claims of varying disciplines.
  • Rita Ffelski claims that other disciplines always point out the shortcomings of cultural studies because it tries to include so many disciplines.

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