By Elizabeth Wilson
Ranging from Marcel Proust to tarot readings, from city making plans to interiors, Elizabeth Wilson investigates an underlying Puritanism in severe observation on issues as extensive ranging as Roger Federer and C S Lewis, Surrealism and style and the connection of faith to fan tradition.
She questions why excitement seems to be suspect, at the same time client society incites it and turns lifestyles into leisure. She questions why there's such worry of elitism while even as the enthusiasts of mass tradition are held in contempt. Subverting traditional perspectives, her indirect standpoint presents startling insights on either general and marginal cultural experiences.
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Additional resources for Cultural Passions: Fans, Aesthetes and Tarot Readers
On the other hand, what cultural criticism has taught us is that each work, each event does carry a political, an ideological and moral meaning. There is no such thing as ‘just entertainment’. indd 21 30/04/2013 08:26 2 Pleasure’s Dangers ... in the very temple of delight Veil’d Melancholy hath her Sovran shrine. John K eats : Ode to Melancholy 22 The twenty-first-century Western world is dedicated to pleasure. Consumer society unfolds a dream of beauty, novelty and selfenhancement, an aesthetic universe in which display is everything.
This world picture, which had given an orderly meaning to the relationship between the individual self, the state and the universe, could not withstand the onslaught of the scientific work of the astronomers and scientists of the late eighteenth century. Chaos replaced the order of the cosmos as hitherto understood and, argues Ferguson, ‘was ... powerless to reconstruct a meaningful totality from the fragments in which it had cast reality’. The work, for example, of the astronomer William Herschel (who discovered the planet Uranus) threw into doubt the above picture of a cosmos limited in size and only a few thousand years old, whose fixed stars were relatively close to the earth (which accounted for their astrological influence).
Socialist historians of the late twentieth century were especially hostile to nostalgia. As the progressive movements of the 1970s faltered and right-wing governments took power in both Britain 37 30/04/2013 08:26 C U LT U R A L D I S E A S E S 38 and the United States, these historians argued that nostalgia was part of the conservative turn. As historians they particularly objected to what they saw as its misrepresentation of history. An imagined past had been constructed, they argued, which ‘tells us about the present through its falsification of the past’.