“The ruling ideas of the age are ever the ideas of the ruling class.” – Marx & Engles High culture is characterised by timeless artefacts that shape and reflect the taste of those of the ‘high class’. In the past, before the introduction of popular culture, it was the ‘ruling classes’, the people with the money, power and status that defined what was considered to be of a high quality hence a part of ‘high society’. It was these people who outlined what was ‘good’ and what was ‘bad’, what was acceptable and what was unacceptable; and the need to discriminate between these two categories became more significant in the 19th century when the time came to preserve the “best of our ‘art’ (Arnold)” (Goodall) as popular culture came into the picture.
Wealth is always a major element, both in the past and the present, in defining which types of society that people would niche themselves in thus the types of lifestyles that they expose themselves to. In the Elizabethan era, it was the birthright that people gained, more often than not accompanied with wealth, that gave them the status to be associated with particular aspects of ‘high society’, that others with no birthright or family name could not. Nowadays, it is merely money, and in very rare cases, family, that classifies what sort of people and society to correlate with. It is the money that gives people status now, and birthright becomes simply a thing of the past.
The white middle- and upper middle-class male was predominantly the ‘ruling class’, with women’s only role in society to morally support them. The birth of the literary canon, the centre of high culture in literature, was accomplished by these very men and continues to be dominated, even now, by educated males. To be entered into the canon is a difficult task for women with the justification being that the criteria for entering the canon has already been cemented and adhered to according to the standards of the white middle- and upper middle-class...
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