The few and the many via the unique

The rhetoric soars and dips…

Literature as religion, however, is a project doomed to failure. For one thing, the cultivation of the former involves too few people to be a plausible substitute for the latter. Religion is a symbolic form or ritual practice, sometimes of a highly arcane kind, which nevertheless engages countless millions of men and women in the course of their sublunary lives, and which connects their beliefs about when the universe was created with their beliefs about when it is permissible to fib or fornicate. If the champions of cultural studies were not so theologically illiterate, they would long since have identified it as history’s most astonishingly successful solution to the division between high and low culture. Within a single ecclesiastical institution, an intelligentsia of clerics is organically linked by both theory and practice to the mass of the faithful. No secular cultural project has come even remotely close to matching this extraordinary achievement, bought often enough at the cost of blood, bigotry and oppression. If culture in the artistic sense is too minority a phenomenon for such purposes, culture in the anthropological sense is a good deal too contentious.

Terry Eagleton
Having one’s Kant and eating it
London Review of Books
Vol. 23 No. 8 · 19 April 2001

And so for day 2627

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