The Theory of Culture and the Culture of Theory

Posted on 01 December 2010

Professor David Shepherd, Cultural Theory at Keele, will deliver the fourth lecture in the University's programme of Inaugural Lectures for 2010/11, on Tuesday, 7 December 2010, in the Westminster Theatre on the Keele University campus. The title of the lecture is “The Theory of Culture and the Culture of Theory”.

The context for this lecture is one in which it has become commonplace to assert the ‘end’ of theory, or the dawning of a post-theoretical phase in the study of literature and culture. Twenty years after publishing Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983) Terry Eagleton announced in the title of another book that we are now After Theory, amplifying it thus: ‘we are living now in the aftermath of what one might call high theory, in an age which, having grown rich on the insights of thinkers like Althusser, Barthes and Derrida, has also in some ways moved beyond them’. More categorical is Robert Scholes when he cites John Guillory’s claim, in Cultural Capital (1993), that ‘The syllabus of theory has the oblique purpose of signifying a rapprochement with the technobureaucratic constraints upon intellectual labor, symptomatically registered as a fetishization of “rigor”’.

With particular reference to the work of the Russian cultural theorist/philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin the lecture explores the extent to which the humanities are guilty of the failure for which Scholes reproaches them. It will ask whether a fetishistic ‘culture of theory’ has irredeemably compromised the capacity of ‘theory of culture’ to make a significant contribution to academic endeavour in the humanities and beyond.

Keele's programme of Inaugural Lectures are given by newly established professors within the University and aim to give an illuminating account of the speaker's own subject specialism. The lectures, which start at 6 pm in the Westminster Theatre, are chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Foskett. Admission is free; no ticket is required.

The other lectures in the series are:

Tuesday 18 January 2011, Professor Nadine Foster, Primary Care Health Sciences, “Challenges and Choices: Musculoskeletal Health in Primary Care”; Tuesday, 22 February 2011, Professor Gordon Ferns, Medicine, "A fire that burns within: the impact of free radicals in health and disease"; Tuesday, 15 March 2011, Professor Clare Holdsworth, Social Geography, "’A degree isn’t enough anymore’: Student experiences and orientation to HE”; Tuesday, 10 May 2011 Professor Krysia Dziedzic, Primary Care Health Sciences, “Best evidence for best therapies in osteoarthritis”.

For further information contact: Chris Stone, Press Office. Tel: 01782 733375.