The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy

Front Cover
Houghton Miflin Company, 1988 - History - 586 pages
4 Reviews
A national bestseller, The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy has been widely acclaimed for identifying and defining the core body of knowledge that no literate American should be without. Now in this newly revised and updated edition, the authors provide a comprehensive look at cultural literacy for the nineties. New entries reflect suggestions from hundreds of readers. The dictionary takes into account the growing consensus over the specifics of multiculturalism, the political and geographic changes in the world, and the new ideas and terms that flow constantly from scientific research and technological development. Twenty-three sections, each alphabetically arranged, cover every major area of knowledge. Within each section, hundreds of individual entries identify ideas, events, and individuals, explaining their significance in our culture and placing them in context. More than 250 maps, charts, and illustrations provide information that cannot be conveyed by words alone. A complete index enables quick reference to any topic. The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy challenges us to find out more about what we know and helps us make sense of what we read, hear, and learn. It is a "must have" book for every home.

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Cultural Literacy

User Review  - blessedday - Overstock.com

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy should be in every Americans home and in every classroom for readers of all ages. This invaluable reference tool is packed full of completely uptodate ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - BoundTogetherForGood - LibraryThing

This is an interesting compliation of what the authors believe to be culturally pertinent information for today. I have used it in our schooling, having our children copy a particular small section to learn about it and for handwriting practice, as we study American history. Read full review

Contents

The Bible i
18
Proverbs
46
World Literature Philosophy
81
Literature in English
111
Conventions of Written English
140
Fine Arts
155
World History to 1550
190
World History since 1550
204
Picture Credits
549
Copyright

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References to this book

Media Literacy
W. James Potter
No preview available - 2005
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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.

Joseph F. Kett, James Madison Professor of History at the University of Virginia, received his Ph.D. from Harvard University. His works include THE FORMATION OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL PROFESSION: THE ROLE OF INSTITUTIONS, 1780-1860 (1968), RITES OF PASSAGE: ADOLESCENCE IN AMERICA, 1790-PRESENT (1977), THE PURSUIT OF KNOWLEDGE UNDER DIFFICULTIES: FROM SELF-IMPROVEMENT TO ADULT EDUCATION IN AMERICA, 1750-1990 (1994), and THE NEW DICTIONARY OF CULTURAL LITERACY (2002), of which he is coauthor. A former History Department chair at Virginia, he also has participated on the Panel on Youth of the President's Science Advisory Committee, has served on the Board of Editors of the "History of Education Quarterly," and is a past member of the Council of the American Studies Association.

James Trefil was born in Chicago and educated at the University of Illinois, Oxford University, and Stanford University, where he earned a Ph.D. in physics. Currently Clarence H. Robinson Professor of physics at George Mason University, he is among the well-respected scientists who have the skill to translate physics for the general reader into prose worthy of an English major. For example, his "meditation trilogy," described below, recounts interesting examples, clear explanations, and the wonder of science in Trefil's beautiful and lively language.

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