Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

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Vintage Books, 1988 - Education - 251 pages
53 Reviews
In this forceful manifesto, Hirsch argues that children in the U.S. are being deprived of the basic knowledge that would enable them to function in contemporary society. Includes 5,000 essential facts to know.
  

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Review: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

User Review  - Ashley - Goodreads

Definitely gave me something to think about. This book is a bit dated now as it was originally published in 1987 (there is a more current one though). Most interesting to me was information about why ... Read full review

Review: Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know

User Review  - Keith Shovlin - Goodreads

Purchased after reading Teaching Democracy. This book helped me grow my cultural understanding at a much wider rate. Excellent and should be required reading in college. Read full review

Contents

cHAPTER11 mi
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la
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CHAPTER v1 an
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Copyright

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About the author (1988)

Hirsch is a conservative critic best known for his repudiation of critical approaches to literature (chiefly poststructuralism and New Criticism) that assume that the author's intentions do not determine readings. He argues that any such methodology is guilty of "the organic fallacy," the belief that the text leads a life of its own. For Hirsch, the author's authority is the key to literary interpretation: The critic's job is to reproduce textual meaning by recovering the author's consciousness, which guarantees the validity of an interpretation. In his two most important books, Validity in Interpretation (1967) and its sequel, The Aims of Interpretation (1976), Hirsch warns against the "critical anarchy" that follows from the "cognitive atheism" of both relativism and subjectivism. For him, these result from a corollary of the organic fallacy, the thesis that meaning is ultimately indeterminate because it changes over time or with the differing interests and values of different readers. According to Hirsch, meaning does not change; only value or significance does, as readers relate a text's fixed meaning to their cultures. If there is more than one valid interpretation of a text, it is because literature may be reduced to more than one "intrinsic genre" or meaning type---the particular set of conventions governing ways of seeing and of making meaning at the time the author was writing. Many critics suggest that the intentions Hirsch recovers in intrinsic genres are really his own, rather than those of the author, because no one, including Hirsch, can escape his or her historically conditioned frame of reference when developing interpretations of literature. Hirsch's recent books, including Cultural Literacy (1987), are seen as proof of those flaws by those who are troubled by the history and values of the dominant culture that Hirsch insists is the only culture. Hirsch argues that "common knowledge" is being denied minority students and others by feminists and other "radicals" who have undermined the authority of its great texts.

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