Cultural Selection: Why Some Acheivements Survive the Test of Time and Others Don't

Gary Taylor, Author
Gary Taylor, Author Basic Books $26 (336p) ISBN 978-0-465-04488-7
Reviewed on: 04/01/1996
Release date: 04/01/1996
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-465-04489-4
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In this intriguing and complex scholarly investigation, Taylor (Reinventing Shakespeare), professor of English at the University of Alabama, argues that death is the foundation of culture because works of music, art, theater and literature considered to be enduring were created by those no longer living. Drawing on a variety of examples, he points out that cultural memory speaks for the dead and notes that what is remembered is selective and unpredictable. Among other variables, power struggles between groups, social hierarchies and the particular representation or interpretation of a cultural object or idea dictate what is passed down to future generations. Our cultural memory, according to Taylor, cannot be divorced from morality. For example, unless former president Richard Nixon is remembered for his attempt to interfere with the public's right to know, his attack on the U.S. Constitution would continue to threaten American democracy. Illustrations. (Apr.)
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