Lovecraft (and probably Cabell) and "culture"

Extollager

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I've been reading John Gross's readable and informative The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: English Literary Life Since 1800 and was struck by a psaage in which Gross quotes the anthropologist Edward Sapir's 1924 essay "Culture, Genuine and Spurious," from Culture, Language and Personality. I wondered if this would be relevant to discussions Lovecraft undertook with his correspondents, and also to understanding his personality. Sapir contrasts "culture" as anthropologists use the word with a more popular usage; the latter meaning of "culture," Sapir says,

----refers to a rather conventional ideal of individual refinement, built up on a certain modicum of assimilated knowledge and experience but made up chiefly of a set of typical reactions that have the sanction of a class and of a tradition. Sophistication in the realm of intellectual goods is demanded of the applicant to the title of 'cultured person', but only up to a certain point. Far more emphasis is placed upon manner, a certain preciousness of conduct which takes different colours according to the nature of the personality that has assimilated the 'cultural' ideal. At its worst, the preciousness degenerates into a scornful aloofness from the manners and tastes of the crowd; this is the well-known cultural snobbishness. At its most subtle, it develops into a mild and whimsical vein of cynicism, an amused skepticism that would not for the world find itself betrayed into an unwonted enthusiasm; this type of cultured manner presents a more engaging countenance to the crowd, which only rarely gets hints of the discomfiting play of its irony, but it is an attitude of perhaps even more radical aloofness than snobbishness outright. Aloofness of some kind is generally the sine qua non of the second type [i.e. the popular notion] of culture.---

Anyway I hadn't been thinking of HPL (or Cabell) when I read that passage, but then they came to mind. It's a long time since I read Cabell, and I read little enough of him at the time, I admit. Part of the reason they came to mind might be the 1924 date of the essay.
 

StilLearning

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I don't know how relevant it is to Lovecraft - but it is certainly relevant to modern life. I suspect I may have some of what he calls 'subtle preciousness' in my own personality.
 

BAYLOR

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I've been reading John Gross's readable and informative The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters: English Literary Life Since 1800 and was struck by a psaage in which Gross quotes the anthropologist Edward Sapir's 1924 essay "Culture, Genuine and Spurious," from Culture, Language and Personality. I wondered if this would be relevant to discussions Lovecraft undertook with his correspondents, and also to understanding his personality. Sapir contrasts "culture" as anthropologists use the word with a more popular usage; the latter meaning of "culture," Sapir says,

----refers to a rather conventional ideal of individual refinement, built up on a certain modicum of assimilated knowledge and experience but made up chiefly of a set of typical reactions that have the sanction of a class and of a tradition. Sophistication in the realm of intellectual goods is demanded of the applicant to the title of 'cultured person', but only up to a certain point. Far more emphasis is placed upon manner, a certain preciousness of conduct which takes different colours according to the nature of the personality that has assimilated the 'cultural' ideal. At its worst, the preciousness degenerates into a scornful aloofness from the manners and tastes of the crowd; this is the well-known cultural snobbishness. At its most subtle, it develops into a mild and whimsical vein of cynicism, an amused skepticism that would not for the world find itself betrayed into an unwonted enthusiasm; this type of cultured manner presents a more engaging countenance to the crowd, which only rarely gets hints of the discomfiting play of its irony, but it is an attitude of perhaps even more radical aloofness than snobbishness outright. Aloofness of some kind is generally the sine qua non of the second type [i.e. the popular notion] of culture.---

Anyway I hadn't been thinking of HPL (or Cabell) when I read that passage, but then they came to mind. It's a long time since I read Cabell, and I read little enough of him at the time, I admit. Part of the reason they came to mind might be the 1924 date of the essay.

By James Cabell Iv'e read Jurgen, which I enjoyed and his novel The High Place which I also enjoyed. At one time Jurgen was pretty widely read and admired. But over time, Cabell's popularity waned. I think it would be nice if modern readers could rediscover him.
 

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