Sunday, 4 November 2012

Parlor Culture

Today's thousand dollar question: does making intellectualism "fashionable" strip it of its value?

Some quick flashbacks:

Medieval times: intellectualism not fashionable; mostly monks actively pursuing and preserving knowledge, everyone else too busy waving swords/fighting dragons

Renaissance: new sorts of intellectualism rising, but often more dangerous than fashionable, re: conflicts with church

Enlightenment right through to the Victorian era: intellectualism all the rage. High fashion. Parlor culture, involving getting a bunch of "intellectuals" and "artists" together in a room to be self-important. That's not really fair : a lot of really good works came out of this time, but there were also a lot of intellectual posers drifting around, it seems.

1920's: A criticism of this sort of fashionable intellectualism from T.S. Eliot :

In the room the women come and go        35
Talking of Michelangelo.
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,        50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?

Now: Parlor is long dead, but we have Hipsters. Think about it. And the need for higher education. Think about that, too. Steampunk = a nostalgia for parlor culture? The most intelligent among us have become chronically more vulgar , and tend to hate the academic institutions that give us the words to hate with (less now maybe, more in the nineties). 

I haven't really worked out what I want to say about this in my head, so I'm just throwing down some fragments of what's rattling around in there. Maybe I'll follow up with  an actual post, later. 

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