“American Culture” — Broad and Broad?

Some thoughts on “American culture” at the Valve

I’m inclined to think that there is some such thing as American culture. But I’m not happy about the way that, for example, professional scholars talk about American culture—or, for that matter, about culture in general. I don’t think that we have a very deep idea of what we’re talking about.

By Bill Benzon



It seems to me that one uses a term like American culture _not_ to have a deep understanding of a collective phenomenon but to have a broad understanding, necessarily of limited depth. (The understanding may still be useful, powerful, incisive.)

So it’s appropriate to object to any pretensions to any extraordinarily complex understanding in this regard, it seems to me. But pushing a concept to go “deep” that is best suited to remain “broad” would seem to me to be a more fit subject for comedy than traditional scholarship, comedy such as may be implied in the title, at least, of Gary Shteyngart’s recent novel _Absurdistan_.

By Tony Christini

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