The first chapter investigates the overlap between cultural sanctity and other forms of political worship, as reflected upon in a tradition from Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke to Emile Durkheim and Max Weber. The importance of Carlyle’s Of Heroes and Hero-Worship is highlighted, introducing as it did the Romantic artist as an inspired, visionary, and charismatic authority figure.
To which extent is ‘nature’ a cultural or discursive construct? The question seems paradoxical and intractable since ‘nature’ by definition opposes the very notion of constructedness or historicity; yet there are indications that each literary generation re-invents its own cultural horizon by re-interpreting a sense of non-culture and nature. In order to clarify this historical and conceptual paradox, the idea and literary treatment of nature and rusticity are sketchily surveyed from classical primitivism to the present day. The conclusion that suggests itself is that ‘nature’ is one of the strongest and most invariant topics in the Western imagination, exhibiting a good deal of consistency through changing periods and literary fashions. If there is anything paradoxical about the link between nature and contemporary (‘postmodern’) literary culture, it lies largely in the fact that this follows after a period (Modernism) which was unusually averse to a celebration of nature and rusticity.
Taking the case of a book series claiming to be a ‘Library of the Complete German National Literature’ (running from 1835 until the early 1860s), this article looks at the emergence of a readership for the medieval classics in what was, around these decades, becoming a self-evidently national canon. The commercially-driven enterprise is here presented, not only in the context of the ongoing professionalisation and growing academic prestige and ethos of the philologies, but also in its competition with the dissemination forum of bibliophile societies with publications-for-members. Between sociability, academic careerism and a widening appeal of ‘nationality’, the popularisation and nationwide acceptance of the idea of a ‘national literature’ as a self-evident taxonomic unit is here traced in its early, hesitant beginnings.
Food provision and diet belong to the fundamental cultural patterns that mark a society, and are often foregrounded as salient experiences in intercultural encounters. This is also the case in one of the most long-standing intercultural confrontations in European history: that between Ireland and England. Some discursive thematizations of Irish diet (whisky, dairy, potatoes, famine) are traced in this article, both in their historical context and in their rhetorical function.