A Question Of Discrimination Essay Research Paper

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A Question Of Discrimination Essay, Research Paper A question of discriminationThink, wrote the cultural critic Eunice Lipton, “about Michelangelo, van Gogh, Rodin, Picasso, Pollock. Could these artists be lesbians, Asian Americans, Native Americans?” Her point was that if they had been any of these things, they would not have been recognised as “artist-geniuses” (her term); and this by implication shows that the notion of high culture in the western tradition embodies everything that is exclusive of other cultures and elitist within its own. To writers such as Lipton, quality is not a distinguishing feature of the objects and activities which the term “high culture” standardly denotes. The art critic Robert Hughes explains why: “Quality, the argument goes, is a

plot. It is the result of a conspiracy of white males to marginalise the work of other races and cultures. To invoke its presence in works of art is somehow inherently repressive.” Can people of left-liberal political sympathies believe that high culture has special and superior value which justifies state support for theatre and grand opera, but not for pop concerts or darts competitions? On the face of it the answer is surely “Yes”; even if, after the characteristic British manner, left-leaning votaries of high culture – of opera, Shakespeare, Rembrandt exhibitions, Beethoven concerts, contemporary art and dance, “serious” literature whether contemporary or classical – occasionally mask their interest under an appearance of irony, given the risk that such

interests run of being branded affected or pretentious. Undoubtedly, aspects of high culture lend themselves to such branding, especially when access to them becomes restricted by cost to a privileged stratum of society, as with all but the worst seats at the opera; for wealth and taste are not automatic bedfellows, and some go to the opera not so much to see it as to be seen at it. But pretension aside, the very idea of people who enjoy Renaissance painting or classical music irritates those who place all consumption of high culture in the same basket, if not as the affectation of the conceited (the low-brow rightwing complaint, opposed to what it brands as Islington trendiness in such things as the championing of contemporary art and music) then as the recreation of the

privileged (the anti-highbrow leftwing complaint, opposed to the spending of public money on the Royal Opera House instead of on grants to ethnic dance groups in deprived areas) – both of which in their different ways explain why questions of culture have a political edge. To see this more clearly in connection with the relation between liberal-left sentiments and high culture, put the original question another way. Is there a difference in intrinsic artistic merit between a Rembrandt and an Australian aboriginal painting? Suddenly other thoughts press. If a European or American says “Yes” to this too, is he or she being guilty of ethnocentrism, of privileging the culturally parochial productions of Dead White Western Men, and thus of cultural, racial and gender bias? Or

bring the question closer to home: if one says that Iris Murdoch’s novels are literature and Agatha Christie’s novels are not, is one making an unjust and unjustifiable comparison on the grounds that to presume to rank these authors is in fact to rank their readers in a way that is snobbish in one direction and condescending in the other: for if the latter’s readers enjoy her work, and find the former’s novels a trial to read, who has the right to say they are choosing the worse? In Matthew Arnold’s definition, culture is “the best that has been said and thought” – and, it should be added, done – in respect of all that matters in intellectual and artistic life. The term’s second and broader anthropological meaning is very different; it neutrally embraces