Popular cultures



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POPULAR CULTURES

1978 – Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe

Robert Muchembled, Culture populaire et culture des élites dans la France

Moderne (XVe-XVIIIe siècle)


  • Already social historians such as Natalie Zemon Davis taking sociological and anthropological approaches to early modern culture

  • Historians of literature and witchcraft

  • Popular vs elite culture (Muchembled)

But also disputes regarding approaches, definition and interpretation:



  • ‘Is the History of Popular Culture Possible?’ (Scribner)

  • ‘The Dilemma of Popular History’ (Strauss and Beik)

  • Understanding Popular Culture (Kaplan, ed.)

  • The New Cultural History – Foucault, Bourdieu, Derrida

  • Popular cultures – no uniform experience

Significance of ritual:



  • expression of communal values and customs

  • processions and festivals e.g. Conards at Rouen

  • public humiliation, moral regulation, e.g. charivari, cuckoldry

  • mockery and satire e.g. skimmington

  • role of popular religion

  • safety valve for grievances and protest

  • also need to consider everyday activities

  • exclusive as well as inclusive, increasing marginalisation

  • attacked by emphasis on patriarchy and hierarchy

Popular literature:



  • prints, woodcuts, chapbooks, ballads, almanachs

  • recapture elusive oral culture e.g. punctuation (Chartier)

  • literate vs semi-literate culture?

  • consumer overlap

Muchembled et al:



  • Religious change: Reformations suppress popular religion through emphasis on order and conformity

  • Political change: increased centralisation curbs popular culture through emphasis on order and conformity

  • Economic change: increased population and instability leads to acceptance of imposition of order and conformity

  • Clark et al extremely critical of underlying assumptions

Another approach:



  • centralised/uniformity vs localised/diversity

  • reflects political geography e.g. rural/urban distinction

  • resilience of popular culture

  • test case = witchcraft prosecution



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