Sunday, August 19, 2012

Strike Through the Pasteboard Mask!

Thus Hayden White in "The Forms of Wildness" (Tropics of Discourse, p. 151-52):
In times of sociocultural stress, when the need for positive self-definition asserts itself but no compelling criterion of self-identification appears, it is always possible to say something like: "I may not know the precise content of my own felt humanity, but I am most certainly not like that,'' and simply point to something in the landscape that is manifestly different from oneself. This might be called the technique of ostensive self-definition by negation, and it is certainly much more generally practiced in cultural polemic than any other form of definition, except perhaps a priori stipulations. It appears as a kind of reflex action in conflicts between nations, classes, and political parties, and is not unknown among scholars and intellectuals seeking to establish their claims to elite status against the vulgus mobile.

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