Saturday, October 19, 2013

Explanations in terms of cultural difference tend to lack many links in their proposed causal chains. "Refletionist" explanations of art, which assume that art immediately reflects its time or place, pre-suppose either that ages have a unitary spirit or that different pursuits within a period are inevitably contesting representations of the age. Film critic David Bordwell notes that top-down explanations in terms of an era repeatedly begin from preconceived notions and are very selective in their presentation of supporting evidence, first in the historical data and then in the artistic works they choose and the details they choose from them. He also observes that scholars who commit themselves "to a search for a single overarching pattern tend not to treat historical actions as shaped by a multitude of factors." Such sweeping explanations turn people into passive conduits of the impulse of the age or participants in an unavoidable common debate, rather than treating individuals as different in susceptibility to influence, according to their capacities, positions, roles, aims, and interests.

   --Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories

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