In Near Ruins
In Near Ruins
Cultural Theory at the End of the Century
This chapter examines the state of cultural theory at the end of the twentieth century. It begins by considering Michael Ondaatje's 1993 novel The English Patient, which the protagonist is the exemplar of colonial knowledge and the epitome of colonial adventure. The chapter then discusses the notion of ruin in relation to culture and civilization, along with the argument between Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno over popular and elite culture. In particular, it analyzes Adorno's commitment to the critical potential of high modernist aesthetics and his despair about mass culture. In conclusion, he argues that the postcolonial condition is the historical precipitate of centuries of Western political and economic domination, itself enabling, even as it was enabled by, centuries of cultural and intellectual colonization.
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