Notes Towards the Definition of Culture  

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"The failure of Eliot's Notes towards a Definition of Culture to face the issue, indeed to allude to it in anything but an oddly condescending footnote, is acutely disturbing. How, only three years after the event, after the publication to the world of facts and pictures that have, surely, altered our sense of the limits of human behavior, was it possible to write a book on culture and say nothing? How was it possible to detail and plead for a Christian order when the holocaust had put in question the very nature of Christianity and of its role in European history? Longstanding ambiguities on the theme of the Jew in Eliot's poetry and thought provide an explanation. But one is not left the less uncomfortable." --In Bluebeard's Castle (1971) by George Steiner


"Since the diaspora, and the scattering of Jews amongst peoples holding the Christian Faith, it may have been unfortunate both for these peoples and for the Jews themselves, that the culture-contact between them has had to be within those neutral zones of culture in which religion could be ignored; and the effect may have been to strengthen the illusion that there can be culture without religion."

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Notes Towards the Definition of Culture is a critical treatise by T. S. Eliot, originally appearing as a series of articles in New England Weekly in 1943, and published in book form in 1948. In the Notes, Eliot presents culture as an organic, shared system of beliefs that cannot be planned or artificially induced. Its chief means of transmission, he holds, is the family. The book has been viewed as a critique of postwar Europe and a defense of conservatism, elitism and Christianity.

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