By Guy Amirthanayagam
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It seemed to provide a basis for a modern, international, inter-disciplinary enterprise; but it was not, of course, secure neutral ground. There is nothing abstract about the idea of culture, when it comes into discussion. It is a vital centre of politics, of dispute about value. The problems are apparent enough when the enterprise is academic study; the word 'culture' does not mean the same thing to a literary critic and an anthropologist. The problems are that much greater when we move to consider the sense of culture as it exists in individuals and groups in society.
We thus confront the concept of 'context' in two senses. There is the strictly literary context, as when an aggrieved author complains that an opponent has misrepresented him by quoting a contested passage 'out of context'. There is also what the anthropologist Malinowski called 'context of situation', the largely non-verbal cluster of circumstances out of which any strictly verbal context arises, and to which it is necessarily related in some way or other. Somehow, directly or indirectly, it 'reflects' the historical conditions that prevailed at the time of its creation.
The entertainment value of news is like the entertainment value of gossip- and the kinds of topics which the news features are likely to coincide somewhat with the kinds of gossip which literature features, except that literature can develop in detail a range of pornography that the news can but hint at. On the other hand, the news has one advantage with regard to the curative value of victimisation. For in literary Realism, the scapegoats who suffer on behalf of our entertainment are but fictive, whereas the news, like the ancient Roman gladiatorial contests and the Spanish bullfight, gives us real victims.