April 4, 1996
In this provocative tour de force, the critically acclaimed author of Reinventing Shakespeare creates a new paradigm for understanding cultural history. Culture, Gary Taylor argues, is not what was done but what is remembered, and the social competition among different memories is as dynamically complicated as the struggle for biological survival. That struggle for culture – driven by emotions as basic as grief, pride, and resentment – is the foundation of personal and national identity.
Taylor illustrates his arguments by reintroducing us to imaginative achievements that continue to stimulate us long after their creation, from Stonehenge to Hollywood – including Oedipus, Casablanca, the paintings of Velazquez, Michelangelo’s sculptures, Japanese literature, Native American narratives, science fiction, the music of Stravinsky, Shakespeare’s plays, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He also discusses the endurance of social phenomena as disparate as the global impact of the Old Testament and the evolving reputation of Richard Nixon.
Through lively and engaging stories of artistic determination in the face of historical happenstance and social indifference, Taylor transcends the familiar polemics about “culture wars” to explain why and how such wars are fought in the first place. Cultural Selection is indispensable reading for anyone who is eager to understand the cultural controversies of the past – and the present.
Gary Taylor is Director of the Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama and has previously taught at Brandeis and Oxford Universities. A world-renowned Shakespeare scholar, he is the author of Reinventing Shakespeare (“the most ambitious book on Shakespeare ever written,” according to Shakespeare Quarterly) and the general editor of the Oxford edition of The Complete Works of Shakespeare (described by the Sunday Times of London as “the most interesting edition since 1623”). He divides his life between Alabama and Massachusetts.