By Guy Amirthanayagam
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Additional info for Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities
Cooper was a classically divided figure, turning to Europe for culture as substance, but inventing the myth A Definition of lnteTTlfltional Culture 23 of the free-standing frontier individual, resisting the encroaching pressure of 'civilisation'. The problem was to generate not a hierarchical but a democratic model for culture; as de Tocqueville noted, this left massive problems of cultural generation. Thus the tone and texture of the resulting debate were quite different, and it is hard to imagine a book that could do for the American cultural debate what Williams's book did for the British; though other studies, like Henry Nash Smith's Virgin Land, or Leo Marx's The Machine in the Garden, show the attempt of American writers to distil not the social fabric of culture, but its mythological fabric.
Lt may be there primarily because it belongs to the particular literary tradition of which it is a part, and that is the sort of thing its public expects. Even if something is not Realisms, Occidental Style 39 obviously there, it may be implicitly there, given the particular terministic screen, or perspective, you would employ when trying to see what it is doing. A related thought is that a given work may be representative not of things as they prevalently were at the time, but of an emergent development.
The tragedy by Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound, provides an interesting instance of this sort. Shelley was an enthusiastic admirer of this play, which he took at face value, as the heroicising of Prometheus, challenge to Zeus. But it was the first of a trilogy, and only a few scattered fragments of the second and third plays survive. However, in his book, Aeschylus and Athens, the British scholar and critic George Thomson offers good grounds to interpret the surviving play not on its face value but in the light ofits place in the trilogy.
Asian and Western Writers in Dialogue: New Cultural Identities by Guy Amirthanayagam