Daily Archives: January 23, 2011

First Post: The Contemporary (HUM415)

Let’s define our terms. Contemporary Culture, so the Schedule of Classes goes, concerns “Issues and achievements in art, thought, and society during the 20th century; literature, fine arts, philosophy, and history.”  That’s a pretty broad portfolio, and in the interests of tightening focus I’d like to define “the Contemporary” according to the narrowest of periodizations, from about 1973 to the present. The cogency of that division of history is not necessarily obvious and in what follows I’ll try to make a case for it. First, however, we ought to distinguish between several uses of the term “contemporary” in common usage. The Oxford English Dictionary (that gold standard of lexicons) devotes its first three definitions of the contemporary to something like “coevalness”:

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