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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 11 April 2014

So farewell then Richard Hoggart

John Ezard's obituary of Richard Hoggart in today's Guardian is one of the best  I've read in a while. Sadly he (Ezard) is no longer with us  and we can but lament that we won't be seeing more from him. I wrote something a few years ago about Hoggart inspired by reading one of the volumes of his autobiography. 

I first read The Uses of Literacy almost exactly 20 years after it was  published and it described a world that for my generation had already long vanished. And yet what I took away from it was not  the celebration of a particular sort of working class life but something much more important: the sense that literary culture was important, discussion of it serious and that flippancy about it  not something that a child from my sort of background could afford. In short it was one of the  things that legitimated my growing feeling that it was OK to have intellectual interests in a world where few did.

I believe this is one of the reasons I get mad with the sort of academic, all to common in sociology, that treats the production of words as a mere game. I can imagine that Hoggart appreciated the attitude to a  craft that lay behind Bill Shankly's famous quip: 'Someone said to me 'To you football is a matter of life or death!' and I said "Listen, it's more important than that". 

Rereading what I wrote four years ago, I'm pleasantly surprised to find that it still seems to hang together, though I am a bit puzzled by what I could possibly have meant by "matrix of discrimination". I suppose I should be thinking of motes and beams.

1 comment:

Primula Monkey said...

The first book my PhD supervisor suggested I read was the Uses Of Literacy. My supervisor, whose been a Prof Emeritus for a few years now i.e. he's old, was a working class grammar school boy from oop North who'd gone to Oxford.

So do you read Hoggart as a ground breaking example of cultural studies, a resolutely British example of theory infused, but rarely explicitly worn analysis, as autobiography by proxy or as a piece of literature that captures the spirit, the mentalitie even of a certain class sub-strata at a specific point in time?

All of the above, which is why he did, does and will continue to matter. Bugger.