Daily Archives: February 4, 2013

Periodization (HUM303/ HUM415)

Note: This post is addressed primarily to HUM 415 students, but as with the prior post, students of HUM 303 might benefit from it.

Last week we talked briefly about key features of the contemporary era, a period that I argued begins in the 1970s. As we noted, “contemporary” means different things for different disciplines, and deciding how to make such a distinction is far from clear cut. On the other hand, the ambiguity of periodizing doesn’t allow us to make arbitrary decisions about when one moment in history ends and another begins. Consider, for instance, Fredric Jameson’s essay, “Periodizing the ’60s,”  which argues that

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DRE (HUM303/ HUM415)

NOTE: Though what’s below is addressed most immediately to HUM 303 students, I think students of HUM 415 will get something out of it as well.

This week we need to cover as best we can the readings to date– which are really intended as preparation for our study of the primary texts (the novels) and the genre of adventure fiction as a whole. Last class we took a look at Williams’s “Dominant, Residual, and Emergent” (DRE). As I stated on Thursday, the main focus of this short but dense chapter is the question of periodization. Specifically, what is a period and how do we periodize? Williams cautions us against simply culling a few of the “leading” features of a cultural epoch because to do so flattens history out. In his considered opinion, the only way to capture the complexity of a given period is by relating two other categories of socio-cultural production and practice (we could call them “domains”): the residual and the emergent. At any given moment in history different values or formations will characterize the social and cultural landscape. At times, these other categories– residual + emergent– will be antagonistic to the cultural dominant.

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