Culture, broadly defined, encompasses any production and organization of words and gestures, images and sounds. None of these can stand on their own and none can claim any ontological, epistemological, or axiological primacy. The hospitable denominator “culture” also captures all modes of theoretical reflection, not only reflection on these singularities, but also reflection on this reflection, the effects that this reflection of the second order produces in the reflected. Even the grandest of theories or narratives is a series of words and gestures, images and sounds, which ought to be studied on more than one level of abstraction at once.
The concept and practice of cultural analysis should not be taken literally—or analytically—as meaning the “taking apart” of culture. Rather, cultural analysts interpret the way in which cultures take things, people, and themselves “apart.” Culture is a polemical and divisive concept and praxis at least as much as a quest for communality and the provisional stabilization of shared ideas, values, and goods. Whether high, low, or mass culture, culture is a culture-war, a war of worlds.
Books in this series locate themselves at the intersection between the practice of close reading and “theory,” a spot where neither remains untouched. The ambition of the series is to move beyond a narrow disciplinarity based on conventional historical premises and to refocus contemporary cultural studies in the direction of close reading. Its themes include boundary-crossing projects and interrogations of canon and institutions in philosophy, religion, anthropology, literature, media studies, and visual analysis.
The series seeks to foster approaches that combine innovative theoretical perspective, close attention to the detail of the cultural object, and an effort of interpretation geared to the meaning of the object for a present that is not amnesiac.