Timeline of Cultural Studies
This timeline comes primarily out of the narratives of cultural studies as told by Raymond Williams in “The Future of Cultural Studies,” Lawrence Grossberg in “The Formations of Cultural Studies: An American in Birmingham,” and Stuart Hall’s “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies.” The connections between cultural studies and composition have been made with the help of Diana George and John Trimbur’s chapter on cultural studies in A Guide to Composition Pedagogies
edited by Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper, and Kurt Schick. As each essay stresses, cultural studies is not a stable entity, so every account of its “story”or history is provisional (making this a more difficult timeline to create, as timelines force chronology, than the previous critical pedagogy timeline
). With that caveat – here is my timeline: 30s/40s/50s:
Raymond Williams in his (1989) piece "The Future of Cultural Studies" (edited transcript from a 1986 lecture) focuses on the influence of cultural studies on adult education during this time period. (This is Williams' "alternative" reading of the history of cultural studies, which he says is normally sited through texts). Williams also points to traces of "what you could now fairly call ' Cultural Studies'" in the works of Leavis and Scrutiny (153).
Appearance of "mass culture" after WWII through "the rationalization, capitalization and technologization of the mass media" (Grossberg 24) is key to the emergence of cultural studies. 1956:
British New Left emerges against the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution -- as Hall points out it (in "Cultural studies and its Theoretical Legacies”) was a moment in which a certain kind of marxism was disintegrating, and this fact problematizes the view of British cultural studies as a marxist critical practice. Notion of this as the founding moment is cultural studies is, according to Hall, a mistake/misreading. And, according to Hall, "there was never a prior moment when cultural studies and marxism represented a perfect theoretical fit" (265).
According to Lawrence Grossberg, the New Left developed, in part, to confront the ways in which traditional marxism failed to address "the beginnings of late capitalism, the new forms of economic and political colonialism and imperialism..." (25). 1957:
Richard Hoggart: The Uses of Literacy1958:
Raymond Williams: Culture and Society1960s:
Brought in subcultures that resisted some aspects of dominant structures of power and became part of the focus of work being done in cultural studies.1963:
E.P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class1964 (or 63?):
Richard Hoggart founds the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies in Birmingham1968:
Stuart Hall becomes director of CCCS 1969:
England establishes its first "open" learning university. This Open University signifies a shift, according to Williams in that tie between cultural studies and adult education; however it is at this moment, sites Williams, that "what became Cultural Studies occurred": Whereas students (in adult ed) had been demanding that education/discussion be in relation to their own experiences and situations and that they retain some right to decide on their own syllabus; the Open University "deliberately" interrupted this. So it was on the one hand popular access, but it also inserted "a technology over and above the movement of the culture" (157). Williams defends the more "more basic right" of these people "to define the questions" (157). 1970s:
British cultural studies advances within "the problematic of Marxism" (Hall "Cultural studies and its Theoretical Legacies" 266). Problematic = a struggle, an actual problem.
Ideas of Gramsci radically displace ideas of Marxism within cultural studies (Hall "Cultural studies and its Theoretical Legacies" 267) – Centre trying to produce an "organic intellectual." Gramsci also served a "middle-ground" for those who feared readings of Althusser that took him to “the post-structuralist realm of the necessary lack of correspondence” (because those ignores the materialist question of the role of ideology) (Grossberg 28).
This Gramscian position “defined cultural studies as a non-reductionist Marxism which was concerned with understanding specific historical contexts and formations, which assumed the lack of guarantees in history and the reality of struggles by which historical relationships are produced” (29). Grossberg describes this as a “conjuncturalist theory,” which does not assume all practices equate to culture (anti-totality/humanism of Williams) and recognizes real structures of power. It sees history as being produced by individuals as they struggle within determinate conditions.
Cultural studies emerges as "a disciplinary formation" in the confrontation between the humanistic Marxism of Williams, Thompson, and Hoggart and the anti-humanism of Athusser's structural marxism.
Political and theoretical work being done on gender and sexual orientation “interrupted” the work of cultural studies.
The New Right emerges in Britain, and the "traditional left seemed incapable of offering coherent strategies and responses" (Grossberg 26). 80s/90s
— Thatcher regime managed to undermine the infrastructure in Britain, while the left is distanced from the majority of the population (seen in academics/students—in part) and unable to secure ground from which to organize opposition.
These political and historical concerns placed cultural studies in some cases on one side—for example, when it criticized post-structuralism and psychoanalysis for abandoning materialism—but most often CS placed itself between two extremes—for example, Hall’s call for a space for CS between structuralism and culturalism. 1980:
Stuart Hall: "Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms" -- reading Williams and Althusser against each other1986/1989:
Raymond Williams: "The Future of Cultural Studies" -- ultimately, Williams does not really see the sense of approaching cultural studies in terms of an intellectual history as it may obscure from us "a historic opportunity for a new Cultural Studies formation" (161)--whose time is now. "Cultural Studies has been about...taking the best we can in intellectual work and going with it in this very open way to confront people for whom it is not a way of life, for whom it is not in any probability a job, but for whom it is a matter of their own intellectual interests, their own understanding of the pressures on them, pressures of every kind, from the most personal to the most broadly political..." (162).
Williams focus on cultural studies’ role in adult education is a point of convergence between cultural studies and composition, as Diana George and John Trimbur point out in their chapter on cultural studies (2001 Tate, Rupiper, Schick 78-9).
Richard Johnson: "What is Cultural studies, Anyway?"1987:
Martin Allor describes the term cultural studies as a "cultural commodity" (Grossberg 21). 1988:
John Trimbur: "Cultural Studies and the Teaching of Writing"Ties in with Williams' account of cultural studies' work in adult education, as Trimbur sees composition emerging out of the need to "represent students and adult learners stigmatized as uneducable because of cognitive deficiencies, the culture of poverty, or the restricted codes of oral culture" (Tate... 80). 1989:
Lawrence Grossberg, in "The Circulation of Cultural Studies," describes cultural studies as an ambiguous term used to refer to what had been previously thought of as "critical theory" (i.e. competing theories (lit theory and anthropology; communication and pop culture) of the relation of between society and culture, ideology and art, etc.) 80s/90s:
Cultural studies appears on the scene in composition studies (Reagan-Bush era reaction much like critical pedagogy). 1991:
Schilb, John. “Cultural Studies, Postmodernism, and Composition.”1992:
Stuart Hall: "Cultural studies and its Theoretical Legacies"-- is not telling the definitive story of cultural studies, not the only way of telling this history of cultural studies. Hall wants to point to certain theoretical moments and what those moments have been like for him. Cultural studies has "no simple origins" (discursive in Foucault's sense of the word). Cultural studies "has a number of different histories" (263).
Entering the era of "post-marxism"
James Berlin and Michael Vivion, eds: Cultural Studies in the English Classroom
-- cultural studies restored rhetoric as central to the curriculum displacing the previously privileged (by English departments) poetics.
Lester Faigley: Fragments of Rationality: Postmodernity and the Subject of Composition1993:
Lawrence Grossberg: "The Formation(s) of Cultural Studies: An American in Birmingham" -- Grossberg traces a somewhat brief (with a fairly narrow focus) history of the conception of and debates within cultural studies. He spends a lot of time making clear his point that since its inception cultural studies has been an unstable and changing “field.” While there is no single cultural studies position, it is important to understand its history, its projects that have shaped its identity. He refers to this as cultural studies’ “unity-in-difference.” He offers two histories of cultural studies -- the "normative" or "standard" account and the "war of positions" account -- ultimately arguing that the development of cultural studies is not linear. A linear or teleological account of cultural studies "ignores the continuous debates within and between the positions offered" (31). Grossberg chooses eight theoretical problematics or sites of warfare and then lays out five positions illustrating a more fractured and uneven trajectory of CS:
I literary humanism (Williams and Hoggart)
II effort to define a dialectical sociology
III Centre position (culturalism) -- studies of youth subculture and encoding/decoding mass communication
IV structural-conjuncturalist position
V a postmodern-conjuncturalist position 1994:
Composition textbook: Signs of Life in the USA1995:
Karen Fitts and Alan France: Left Margins: Cultural Studies and Composition Pedagogy1996:
James Berlin: Rhetorics, Poetics, and Cultures: Refiguring English Studies.