25 January 2010

Historical Nostalgia Can Be A Good Thing

One of the criticisms oft' heard from certain historians and bloggers is their disdain for what they refer to as "celebratory history" or, what one might call a "nostalgic" view or perspective of history. Brett McKay (a recent law school grad) offers an excellent defense of that view of history on his blog post today. Here are a few salient points from his post:

"There have been moments like this at other times in history, most recently the 1960’s where idealistic hippies believed they could form a new world where peace and love ruled the day. That project was largely unsuccessful and in many ways lead to the cultural excess and stagnation we are currently experiencing. But the result of the European project was one of the greatest cultural flourishings in world history: the Renaissance period. The difference? While the movement of the 1960’s was built on the idea of starting with a clean slate, the Renaissance was founded on….yup, you guessed it, nostalgia."

And . . . 


"And the period we get nostalgic for typically represents that which we feel is missing in our current culture. It’s not as if we wish to return wholesale to that period, but that we wish to bring back those characteristics which were most salient about that time and which seem absent in ours."

And . . . 

"Ideally, what should happen is that each generation should take what was best from the generation before it and add it as a brick in the foundation of the culture, discarding the dross and ever stacking together the lessons we’ve learned, the things that have really worked best."

You may read the rest of Brett's thought provoking comments here


13 comments:

Anonymous said...

I might be able to give more credence to Bret's opinion if he knew the differenct between 'lead' and 'led.'

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Oh yes, a very valid point. We should discount his opinion because he misspelled a word. Brilliant.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BTW Anon, you misspelled "differenct" - it's "difference."

Anonymous said...

Richard G., My error was a typo. If your read Bret's whole article, you will see he consistently misuses 'lead.' Apparently, he does not know the difference between 'lead' and 'led.'

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

So what's your point - you disregard the whole point of his blogpost over a spelling error? I think that's rather petty as well as irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

You misrepresent what I said. I did Not say I disregard everything Bret wrote. I said I would "give more credence" to him if he didn't make those errors. Any writing always has more authority when correct spelling, grammar and language are used.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Anon:

I don't necessarily disagree. But for you to focus your criticism on an irrelevant misspelling in a 2800 word post is rather petty. Blog posts are often done on the spur of the moment and, due to the nature of the medium, often done with little editing. I frequently make spelling errors. Sometimes I catch them, sometimes I don't. While I'm not excusing poor spelling, misspellings in this type of medium are not uncommon.

Anonymous said...

It is not a misspelling, but rather a consistent error based on the failure to recognize the difference between the homonyms 'led,' the past tense of 'to lead' and 'lead' the gray metal. Do a word search in Bret's article and you will see he consistently misuses lead. This is a very common error which most educated people do not make. It is like confusing 'to' with 'too.'

As you said, a few minor typos and spelling errors are forgivable in this kind of writing. But to donsistently confuse these two homonyms weakens the writing.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Weakens the writing" perhaps, but the facts and analysis of his point are sound, which is what the post is about, not grading his grammar and spelling proficiency.

BorderRuffian said...

"But to donsistently confuse these two homonyms weakens the writing."
*********************

Donsistently?

;)

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

BR:

I missed that. Anon's spelling errors are as "donsistent" as the writer he criticizes.

RGW

Msimons said...

What a wonderful read. I love to observe all my Christian, Civil and Historically Southern Holidays.

I too have been taken to task over celebrating Lee/Jackson day or Confederate Memorial Day ect.

Thanks Brett for writing and sharing this with us.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

It was a great piece and dovetailed nicely into some of the discussions we've had here.